LtBRARY OF THE COMMANDERY OF
THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS MILITARY
ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE
CADET ARMORY, BOSTON
w:.-^y . M„„£.
S_ - .r^^ - 1 8 ?,0
THE UNIVERSITY OF
THE WILMER COLLECTION
OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS
RICHARD H. WILMER, JR.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
LAST THREE SOLDIERS
'THERE THEY AKE! SEE? BY THE END OK THE HOUSE!
EXCLAIMED PHILIP." (Set page %•&.)
LAST THREE SOLDIERS
WILLIAM HENRY SHELTON
THE CENTURY CO.
Copyriglit, 1896, 1897, by
The Century Co.
The DeVinne Press.
WITH AN APOLOGY TO THE LITTLE SISTER
THAT THE PLOT IS NOT MORE BLOOD-CURDLING AND
HARROWING, THIS STORY OF WHAT MGHT HAVE BEEN
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO HIS YOUNG
FRIENDS GUSSIE AND GENIE DEMAREST
BY THE AUTHOR
145 West FrFTT-FiFTH Stkeet,
New Yokk, September 4, 1897
I COMPLETIKG THE LiNE 1
n The Old Man of the Mountain .... 10
in The Mountain of the Twentieth Eed Pin . . 19
rv A Day op Discoveries 23
V The Cipher Code 36
VI Messages of Dire Disasters 43
Vn In which the Three Soldiers Make a Remarkable
Vin "Which Ends in a Battle 62
IX The Plateau Receives a Name 80
X The Prisoners 93
XI In which the Soldiers Make a Map . . . 104
XII How the Bear Disgraced Himself . . . 121
XIII How THE Bear Distinguished Himself . . . 136
XIV Which Gives a Nearer View of the Neighbor
called "Shifless" 152
XV The Golden Mill 162
XVI Which Shows that a Mishap is Not Always a
XVn How the Postmaster Saw a Ghost .... 190
XVin Knowledge from Above 201
XIX The Cave of the Bats 216
XX The Stained-glass Windows and the Prismatic
XXI A Scrap of Paper 243
XXII The Deserted House 265
XXin Starvation 282
XXTV The Eescue 298
XXV Conclusion 315
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'There They Are! See? By the End of the House!'
Exclaimed Philip" Frontispiece
"It was a Mighty Fortress, Unscalable on its Western
Andy Tells the Story of the Old Man of the Mountain 15
"Lieutenant Coleman was the First to Ascend, with
the Telescope of the Station Strapped on his
" Corporal Bromley Took Position with a Red Flag hav-
ing A Large White Square in the Center" . . 37
"Poor Philip, Left Alone, Burst into Tears" . . 53
The Mother Bear Comes for her Cub 69
" She Rose Suddenly on her Hind Feet and Dealt Him
such a Whack as Nearly Broke his Ribs" . . 75
Christening the Territory 87
"The Fowls Hung about the Door" .... 107
"Philip Made Up the Most Marvelous Stories, which
WERE Recited before the Fire" 115
"The Cask was Overturned so that the Yellow Pieces
Poured Out upon the Floor" 131
"They Drove Him Off with Sticks and Stones" . . 143
X LIST OF ILLUSTEATIONS
Making a Hundred-dollar Caster 149
The Golden Mill 165
Philip on the Edge op the Precipice .... 175
"Philip could See the Hole in the Snow through
which He Knew He must have Fallen" . . .183
"Rushing Out from under the Trees, They Saw a Huge
Balloon Sweeping over their Heads" . . . 207
"Beyond the Illumination op his Torch He Saw Two
Gleaming Eyes" 221
Exploring the Cave op the Bats . . . . . 227
" He was Down on his Hands and Knees upon the Turf " 247
"The Scrap op Paper" 257
The Deserted House 269
The Grave op the Old Man op the Mountain . . 277
The Beacon Fire 291
" He could Only Cry Out, ' Fred ! Fred ! Here They
" They Looked Hardly Less Comical than Before " . . 317
THE LAST THREE SOLDIEIIS
THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
COMPLETING THE LINE
IF Andy Zachary, the guide, had not mysteri-
ously disappeared from his home within the
month which followed the events of the night
of the 2d of July in the year 1864, sooner or
later the postmaster in the Cove on one side and the peo-
ple in the valley on the other must have learned of the
presence of the little colony on the summit of the gi'eat
On that particular night the cavalcade had come silently
and secretly over the mountains by an unfrequented trail
from the last station on Upper Bald, which towered above
the Sandy River country. The troopers had followed the
guide in single file along the ridges and down the stony
trails, and now, when they emerged on the open Cove road
for the first time, Andy fell back to the captain's side, in
his butternut suit and mangj'- fur cap, with his long rifle
slung behind his broad, square shoulders.
2 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
For that night his will was law above that of the cap-
tain ; and before the three pack-mules at the end of the
train had come out on the road, the head of the column
had turned up a washout to the left, which presently
brought the whole outfit into the shelter of a grove of
pines alongside a deserted log cabin. It was just a trifle
past midnight by the captain's watch, and the full moon
which hung above the ridge to the west would light the
Cove face of old Whiteside for yet an hour ; and during
the darkness which must follow in the small hours of the
morning there would be ample time to steal through the
sleeping settlement and find a lodgment high up on
the mountain which was the objective of the expedition.
The troopers dismounted, and some lay down on the
ground by the horses, while two kindled a fii'e in the stone
chimney of the cabin and made coffee for the others.
Corporal Bromley leaned a bundle of red-and- white flags
against the door-post, and after turning aside with Lieu-
tenant Coleman and Philip Welton to inspect their supphes
on the pack-mules, the three joined the captain and the
guide in the shadow of that end of the cabin vrhich looked
toward the singular mountain standing boldly between the
Cove and the valley beyond. That it was a mighty for-
tress, unscalable on its western side, could be seen at a
glance. The broad moonlight fell full on a huge boulder,
whose mighty top, a thousand feet above the Cove, was
fringed with a tall forest growth that looked in the dis-
tance like stunted berry-bushes, and whose rounded granite
side was streaked with black storm-stains where the rains
COMPLETING THE LINE 3
of centuries had coursed down. The moonlight picked out
white spots underneath the huge folds which here and
there belted the rock and protected its under face from
the storms. These were the spots which the rills dribbled
over and the torrents jumped clear of to meet their old
tracks on the bulging rock below. It looked for all the
world as if the smoke from huge fires had been curling
against the mountain for ages, so black were the broad
upward streaks and so white in the moon's light were the
surrounding faces of the rock. Phil was the first to speak.
" It must have been a giant that rolled it there," he said
with a sigh of relief, and looking up at Andy, the guide.
" Well, now, youngstei'," said Andy, " you 'd 'low so if
you was round these parts in the springtime, when the
sun loosens the big icicles hangin' on them black ledges,
an' leaves 'em fall thunderin' into the Cove bottom."
The Cove post-of&ce, whose long white roof crowned a
knoU nearly in the center of a small tract within the
mountain walls, Andy said, was at such times a great
resort of the mountaineers, who came that they might
watch the movement of the avalanches of snow and ice.
Because of its wonderful formation this mountain was
of abundant interest to all during their brief halt, but it
was examined most carefully by the three young soldiers
who were to be stationed on its crest. Philip Welton was
the youngest of the three, only just past seventeen, and it
was well known to his officers that if he had not been an
oi'phan, without parents to object, he would never have
been permitted to enlist even as a drummer-boy in the 2d
4 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
Ohio, or in any capacity in any other command. The lad
was of a gentle, affectionate nature, sensitive and refined,
but his opportunities for education had been limited to the
winter schools and the books he had read behind the flour-
sacks in his uncle's mill. Some said his uncle was glad to
be rid of him when he went away to the war. Like his
friend and protector, Bromley, he had served with the
colors on many a hard-fought field, and now the two had
just been detached from then* regiment and assigned to
duty under the command of Frederick Henry Coleman, a
second lieutenant whose regiment was the 12th United
George Bromley, although the oldest of the three, was
not yet twenty at the time he had enlisted at the beginning
of the war, and he had left college in his junior year to
enter the army.
Lieutenant Coleman had gi-aduated from West Point
the summer before, the very youngest member of his class.
Although the three were mere boys at the time of their
enlistment, each had entered the service through the
strongest motives of patriotism, and each followed the
fortunes of the national arms with an interest which
showed itself in accordance with his personal character.
At that time General Sherman's army was engaged in
that series of battles which began at Marietta, Georgia,
and, including the capture of Pine and Lost Moiintains,
was soon to end in the victory at Kenesaw. The army of
General Sherman was steadily advancing its lines in spite
of the most heroic resistance of General Johnston, and
"IT WAS A MIGHTY FUKIKESS. I NSCAL.^BLE ON ITS WESTEKN SIDE."
COMPLETING THE LINE 7
every new position gained was fortified by lines of log
breastworks, sometimes thrown up in an hour after the
regiments had stacked arms. These hastily constructed
works, extending ten and twelve mUes across the thickly
wooded country, were nowhere less than four feet high,
with an opening under the top log for musketry, and out
in front the tree-tops were thrown into a tangled mass,
almost impossible for an attacking army to pass. These
peculiar and original tactics of General Sherman enabled
him to hold his front with a thin line of men, wliile the
bulk of his troops were sent around one flank or the other
to turn the enemy out of his works and so gain a new
This was the sort of service Corporal Bromley and
Philip Welton had been engaged in during the early part
of the campaign ; and when they remembered the long
rains and the deep mud through which the soldiers
marched, and the wagon-trains foundered and stuck fast,
they were not sorry to be mounted on good horses and
riding over hard roads.
Now that the moon had set, the troopers mounted again
and moved quietly along the stony road, Andy Zachary,
the guide, riding with the captain at the head of the
column. The deep silence of the forest was on every hand,
broken only by the clicking of iron shoes and the occa-
sional foaming and plunging of a mountain stream down
some laurel-choked gorge. The road wound and turned
about, fording branches, mounting hills, and dipping down
into hollows for an hour, until open fields began to appear
8 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
bristling with girdled trees, and then the wooded side of
the huge granite mountain shot up, towering over the left
of the column. Soon thereafter the forest gave way to
open country, and as the road swept round the base of the
mountain it became a broad and sandy highway, so that
when the horses trotted out there was only a light
jangling of equipments,— sabers clicking on spurred heels,
and the jingling of steel bits,— and when the pace was
checked to a walk in passing some dark cabin only the
creaking of the saddles was heard.
So it was that the troopers stole silently through the
valley of Cashiers, with the solemn mountain-peaks stand-
ing like blind sentinels above the sparse settlement. Oc-
casionally a drowsy house-dog roused himself to bark, and
his fellow gave back an answering echo across the bushy
fields ; but no one of the sleepers awoke under the patch-
work quilts of many colors, and the long rifles hung un-
distiirbed over the cabin doors. Then the troopers exulted
in their cleverness, and laughed softly in their beards,
while the night winds blew over the roofs of the dark
cabins as they passed.
After they were clear of the sandy road in the settle-
ment, it was a long way up the mountain-side, and the
iron shoes of the scrambling horses clicked on many a
rolling stone, and some sleepy heads caught forty winks
as they climbed and climbed. The cabins disappeared,
and the fences, and the plow-steers in the hill pastures
rattled their copper bells from below as the troop got
higher; and so it was lonesome enough on the shaggy
COMPLETING THE LINE 9
momitain, and every trace of the habitation of man had
disappeared long before they reached the rickety old
bridge which spanned the deep gorge.
Andy said that this bridge was the only possible way by
which the top of the mountain could be reached, and that
it had been built a great many years ago by a crazy old
man who once lived on the mountain, but who was long
since dead. It was still too dark to examine its condition.
It could be seen that the near-by poles of the old railing
had rotted away and fallen into the black chasm below.
More than half of the bridge was swallowed up in the
shadows of the foliage on the other bank. Away down in
the throat of the gorge, where tall forest-trees grew and
stretched their topmost limbs in vain to reach the level of
the grass and flowers on the fields above them, a tinkling
stream fell over the rocks with a far-away sound like the
chinking of silver coins in a vault. The silence above and
the murmur of the water below in the thick darkness were
enough to make the stoutest hearts quail at the thought
of crossing over by the best of bridges, so the captain
prudently decided to wait for daylight ; and as the dis-
tance they had gained above the settlement made the spot
a safe encampment for a day, he ordered the troopers to
After feeding the tired horses from the sacks of oats
carried in front of the saddles, the men lay down on the
ground and were soon sleeping soundly under the tall
pines which grew above the bridge-head.
THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAEST
^HE captain and Andy lingered by the bridge-
head, and the three boy-soldiers who were to
be left behind next day, long as the march had
been, felt no inclination for sleep. They were
too much interested in watching for the first light by
which they could examine this important approach to theii*
'' I should like to know something more of the crazy old
man who built this crazy old bridge," said Philip, appeal-
ing to Lieutenant Coleman. '' Why not ask the guide to
teU us ? "
Andy was by no means loath to tell the story so far as
he knew it, which was plain enough to be seen by the de-
liberate way in which he seated himself on a rock. Andy's
audience reclined about him on the dry pine-needles.
Mountaineers are not given to wasting their words, and
by the extreme deliberation of the guide's preparations it
was sufficiently evident that something important was
THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN 11
" Thirty years back," said Andy, taking off his coonskin
cap, and looking into it as if he read there the beginning
of his story, " and for that matter down to five year ago,
there was a man by the name of Jo-siah Woodring lived
all by himself in a log cabin about half-way up this moun-
tain, and just out o' sight of the trail we-all come up to-
night. He owned right smart of timber-land and clearin',
and made a crap o' corn every year, besides raisin' 'taters
and cabbage and enions in his garden patch. He had a
copper still hid away somewhere among the rocks, where
he turned his corn crap into whisky ; and when Jo-siah
needed anything in the line of store goods he hooked up
his steer and went off, sometimes to Walhalla and some-
times clean up to Asheville.
" Now about a year after Jo-siah settled on his clearin',
about the time he might have been twenty or thereabouts,
when he come back from one of those same merchandisin'
trips, instid of one steer he had a yoke, and along with him
there was a little man a good thirty year older 'n Jo-siah,
an' him walkin' a considerable piece behind the cart when
they come through the settlement, same as if the two
wa' n't travehn' together. The stranger was a dark-com-
plected man, so the old folks say, and went just a trifle
lame as he walked ; and as for his clothes, he was a heap
smarter dressed than the mountain folks. Not that he
looked to care for his dress, for he did n't, not he ; but
through the dust of the road, which was white on him, hit
was plain that he wore the best of store cloth.
" As the cart was plumb empty, hit would seem that the
12 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
little man fetched nothing along with him besides the
clothes on his back, and such other toggery as he may
have stowed away in the cowskin knapsack they do say
he staggered under. If he had any treasure, he must 'a'
toted hit in his big pockets, which, hit is claimed by some
folks now livin', was stuffed out like warts on an apple-
tree, and made him look as misshapen as he was small.
"Now, whether anybody heard the chin kin' o' gold or
not (which I 'm bettin' free they did n't), hit looked bad
for Jo-siah that this partic'lar stranger should disappear in
his company, for he was never seen ag'in in the settle-
ment, or anywhere else, by any human for a good two
year after the night he come trudgin' along behind the
cart. Hit was nat'ral enough that the neighbor folks in
time began to suspicion that Jo-siah had murdered the
man for his money, and all the more when he made bold
to show some foreign-lookin' gold pieces of which nobody
knowed the vally.
" They say how f eelin' run consid'ble high in the settle-
ment that year, but hit was only surmisin' like, for there
was no evidence that would hold water afore a juiy of any
crime havin' been committed; and hit all ended in the
valley folks avoidin' Jo-siah like his other name was Cain
—and that sort o' treatment 'peared to suit him mighty
well. Leastways, he went on with his plowin' and sowin'
and stiUin' his crap, and whistled at the neglect of his
neighbors, who never came to the clearin' any more, and in
that very year he built this bridge, with or without the help
of the other one.
THE OLD ilAN OF THE MOUNTAIN 13
" When the bridge was first seen, hit was stained by the
weather, and moss had come to grow on the poles, and
rotten leaves filled the chinks of the slab floor as if hit had
never been new, and no one cared to ask any questions
of Jo-siah, who kept his own counsel and seemed to live
more alone than ever. The bridge was only another mys-
tery connected with the life of this man that everybody
shunned, and nobody suspicioned that hit had anything
to do with the disappearance of the other one, who was
counted for dead.
" Now when day comes," said Andy, " you-all will see for
yourselves that there is no timber on the other side o' this
here gully tall enough to make string-pieces for a bridge
of this length, and so the two string-pieces must have
been cut on this side so as to fall across the chasm pretty
much where they were wanted. Well, that was how it
was ; and the story goes that the man who first saw the
bridge reported, judging by the stumps, that the right-
hand timber had been cut six months or more before the
other one, which might have been just about the time
Jo-siah brought the stranger home with him, and would
easily account for his disappearance onto the summit of
the mountain, for of course you understand he was not
dead, and Jo-siah the Silent had no stain of blood on his
" The mountain folks, however, thought different at that
time, and looked cross-eyed at the painted cart drawed by
the two slick critters on hits way to the low country.
They was quick to take notice, too, when Jo-siah come
14 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
back, that the cart carried more kegs than what hit had
taken away, besides some mysterious-lookin' boxes and
packages. Now this havin' continued endurin' several
half-yearly trips, hit was the settled idee in the valley that
Jo-siah was a-fm*nishin' of his cabin at a gait clear ahead
of the insolence like of drivin' two steers to his cart when
honest mountain folks could n't afford but one. Hit was
suspicioned, moreover, that he was a-doin' this with the ill-
got gold of the old man he had murdered, and the gals
shrugged their shoulders as he passed, for no one of the
gals as knew his goin's-on would set a foot in his cabin.
It leaked out some way that Jo-siah had been investin' in
books, which was the amazin' and crownin' extravagance
of all, for hit was knowed that he could scarcely read a
line of print or much more 'n write his own name.
" These unjust suspicions of murder and robbery against
an innocent man continued to rankle in the minds of the
valley folks for more than two years, until a most sur-
prising event took place on the mountain, to the great dis-
appointment and annoyance of those gossips who had been
loudest in their charges against Jo-siah Woodring. Hit
happened that two bear-hunters from the settlement found
themselves belated in the neighborhood of this very bridge
one September night, and, bein' worn out with the chase,
they sat down to rest in the shadow of an old chestnut,
where they soon fell asleep. They awoke just before mid-
night, and were about to start on down the mountain when
they heard footsteps coming up the trail, and presently,
dark as the night was, they saw a man with a keg on liis
THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN 17
shoulder a-walkin' toward the bridge. The man was Jo-
siah ; and after restin' his burden on a stump and wipin'
the sweat from his forehead, he shouldered hit again and
tramped on over the bridge.
" The hunters were bold men and well armed, and, hav-
ing had a good rest, they followed the man at a safe dis-
tance until he came to the ledge of rocks which you-aU.
will view for yourselves by sun-up, and there he was met
by a man with a ladder, who stood out on the rocks above.
The hunters noticed that the stranger was a small man,
and just then the moon came out from behind a cloud, and
they knew him for the little old man who was supposed to
have been murdered.
" When the hunters told what they 'd seen on the moun-
tain, you may believe," said Andy, '' there was right smart
excitement in Cashiers, and some disappointment to find
that Jo-siah was neither a murderer nor a robber. They
went on hating him aU the same for driving two steers to
his cart and for having deceived them so long about the
man on the mountain, and then they started the story
that he was feedin' his prisoner on whisky, and that it
was only a slow murder, after all. After that, one day,
when Jo-siah had gone away to market, half a dozen of
the valley men, with the two hunters to guide them, went
up the mountain for the purpose of liberating that poor
prisoner o' Jo-siah's.
"They carried a ladder along, and when they had
climbed up the ledge they found a little log shelter not fit
for a sheep-hovel ; and as for the prisoner, he kept out of
18 THE LAST THKEE SOLDIERS
their way, for it was a pretty big place, with plenty of
trees and rocks to hide among. Well, as the years went
on, Jo-siah brought back less and less of suspicious pack-
ages in his cart when he came up from the low country ;
but it was known that he still went up the mountain on
certain dark nights with a keg on his shoulder. The
strange old man himself was seen at a distance from time
to time, but at last his existence on the mountain came to
be a settled fact, and the people ceased to worry about him.
"Well, five years ago, as I said," continued Andy,
" Jo-siah took sick with a fever, and come down into the
settlement to see the doctor ; and he was that bad that the
doctor had to go back with him to drive the cattle. He
rallied after that so as to be about again, and even out at
night ; but three months from the time he took the fever
he died. The doctor was with him at the time, and the
night before he breathed his last he told the doctor that
the little man on the mountain was dead. After the funeral
another party went up to the top of the mountain, and, sure
enough, there was the grave, just outside of the miserable
shelter he had lived in so long ; and it looks like he did,
sure enough, drink liimseK to death, for there was no sign
about the hovel that he ever cooked or ate ordinary food.
" The strangest thing about the whole strange business,"
said Andy, getting on to his feet, " is that there was noth-
ing in Jo-siah's poor cabin worth carrying away ; and if
the old man did n't build this here bridge with his own
hands thirty year ago, hit stands to reason that he helped
THE MOUNTAIN OF THE TWENTIETH RED PIN
FORTNIGHT before the events described in
the opening chapter of this story, the topo-
graphical officer attached to General Sherman's
headquarters might have been seen leaning
over a table in his tent, busily engaged in sticking red-
headed pins into a great map of the Cumberland and
Blue Ridge Mountains. The pins made an iiTegular
line, beginning at Chattanooga, and extending through
Tennessee and North Carolina at no great distance from
the Georgia border. Altogether there were just twenty
of these pins, and each pin pierced the top of a moun-
tain whose position and altitude were laid down on the
map. After this officer, who was a lieutenant-colonel,
had spent half the night, by the light of guttering candles,
in arranging and rearranging his pins, he sent in the morn-
ing for the adjutant of a regiment of loyal mountaineers.
Beginning with the first pin outside of Chattanooga, he
requested the presence of a mountaineer who lived in the
neighborhood of that particular peak. When the man re-
20 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
ported, the colonel questioned Mm about the accessibility
of the mountain under the first pin, its distance from that
under the second pin, and whether each peak was plainly
Adsible from the other. The colonel's questions, which
were put to the soldier in the shade of the fly outside the
tent where the map lay, brought out much useful inf oi-ma-
tion, and much more that was of no use whatever, because
half the questions were intended to mislead the soldier and
conceal the colonel's purpose. Sometimes he changed a
pin after the soldier went away ; and at the end of three
days of interviewing and shifting the positions of his pins,
the twentieth red head was firmly fixed above the point
laid down on the map as Whiteside Mountain. StOl a
little farther along a blue-headed pin was set up, and then
the work of the topographical officer of the rank of lieu-
tenant-colonel was done.
These pins represented a chain of signal-stations, nine-
teen of which the captain of cavalry, with Andy Zachaiy
to guide him, had now established one after the other,
with as much secrecy as the lieutenant-colonel had em-
ployed in selecting the positions. And now the gray dawn
was coming on the side of the twentieth mountain as Andy
finished his story. In fact, as the last word fell from his
lips a lusty cock tied on one of the pack-saddles set up a
shrill crow to welcome the coming day. Although tall
pines grew thick about the bridge-head where the troopers
were stiU sleeping, it was light enough to see that only
low bushes and gnarled chestnuts grew on the other bank.
The noisy branch kept up its ceaseless churning and
THE MOUNTAIN OF THE TWENTIETH RED PIN 21
splashing among the rocks far down in the throat of the
black gorge, and the great height and surprising length
of its single span made the crazy old bridge look more
treacherous than ever. It swayed and trembled with the
weight of the captain by the time he had advanced three
steps from the bank, so that he came back shaking his
head in alarm. By this time the men were afoot, and
Andy asked for an ax, which at the first stroke he buried
to its head in the rotten string-piece.
'^ Just what I feared," said the captain. " Do you think
I am going to trust my men on that rotten structure ? "
Andy said nothing in reply as he kicked off with his
boot a huge growth of toadstools, together with the bark
and six inches of rotten wood from the opposite side of the
log. Then he struck it again with the head of the ax such
a blow that the old sticks of the railing and great sections
of bark fell in a shower upon the tree-tops below. The
guide saw only consternation in the faces of the men as he
looked around, but there was a smile on his own.
*' Hit may be old," said Andy, throwing down the ax,
" but there is six inches of tough heart into that log, and
I 'd trust hit with a yoke o' cattle." With that he strode
across to the other side, and coming back jounced his
whole weight on the center, with only the effect of rattling
another shower of bark and dry fungi into the gorge.
'' Bring me one of the pack-mules," cried Andy ; and
presently, when the poor brute arrived at the head of the
old causeway, it settled back on its stubborn legs and re-
fused to advance. At this the guide tied a grain-sack over
22 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
the animars eyes and led him safely across. Lieutenant
Coleman led over the second mule by the same device, and
Bromley the third. By this time it was broad daylight,
and the captain detailed three men to help in the unpack-
ing. These he sent over one at a time, so that after him-
self Phihp was the last to cross.
Beyond was an open field where blue and yellow flowers
grew in the long, wiry grass, which was wet with the dew.
This grass grew up through a thick mat of dead stalks,
which was the withered growth of many years. Under the
trees and bushes the leaves had rotted in the rain where
they had fallen, or in the hollows where they had been
tossed by the wandering winds. There was not a sign of
a trail, nor a gu'dled tree, nor a trace of fire, nor any
evidence that the foot of man had ever trodden there.
The httle party seemed to have come into an unknown
country, and after crossing the open field they continued
climbing up a gentle ascent, winding around rocks and
scraggly old chestnut-trees, until they arrived under the
ledge which supported the upper plateau. This was found
to extend from the boulder face on the Cove side across to
a mass of shelving rocks on the Cashiers valley front, and
was from thirty to fifty feet in height, of a perpendicular
and bulging fold in the smooth granite. After a short
exploration a place was found where the ledge was broken
by a shelf or platform twenty feet from the ground ; and
just here, in the leaves and grass below, lay the rotted
fragments of a ladder which had doubtless been used by
the old man of the mountain himself.
A DAY OF DISCOVERIES
■HILE Andy, with the help of the detail, was cut-
ting and notching the timber for ladders, the
captain and the three young soldiers of the
station made a breakfast, standing, from their
haversacks and canteens, and looked about them over the
wild country at their feet, and off at the blue peaks which
rose above and around the valley of Cashiers, and then at
the ridges in the opposite direction, drawn like huge fur-
rows across the western horizon, showing fainter and
fainter in color until the blue of the land was lost in the
blue of the sky.
The men worked with a will, so that by ten o'clock the
main ladder, which was just a chestnut stick deeply
notched on the outer side, was firmly set in the ground
against the face of the cliff. The landing-shelf was found
to extend into a natural crevice, so that the short upper
ladder was set to face the bridge, and so as to be entirely
concealed from the view of any one approaching from
24 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
When everything was in readiness, Lieutenant Coleman
was the first to ascend, with the powerful telescope of the
station strapped on his shoulders ; and the others quickly
followed, except the three troopers who remained behind
to unpack the mules and bring up the rations and outfit
for the camp.
At the point where they landed there was Httle to be
seen of the top of the mountain beyond a few stunted
chestnuts which clung to the rocks and were dwarfed and
twisted by the wind ; and nearly as many dead blue hmbs
lay about in the thin grass as there were live green ones
forked against the sky. There was the suggestion of a
path bearing away to the left, and following this they
came to a series of steps in the rocks, partly natural and
partly artificial, which brought them on to a higher level
where an extended plateau was spread out before them.
On the western border they saw the line of trees overhang-
ing the Cove side— the same that had looked like berry-
bushes the night before from the cabin where they had
halted for the moon to go down. From this point the
crest of the Upper Bald was in plain view across the
Cove, but, anxious as they were to open communication
with the other mountain, the flags had not yet come up,
and there was nothing left for them to do but continue
their exploration. It was observed, however, that the
trees overhanging the Cove would conceal the flagging
operations from any one who might live on the slopes of
the mountains in that direction, and, moreover, that by
going a short distance along the ridge to the right a fine
' LIEUTEXAXT COLEMAX WAS THE FIKST TO ASCEND, WITH THE TELESCOPE OF
THE STATION STKAPPED ON HIS SHOULDERS."
A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 27
backing of dark trees would be behind the signal-men.
Philip would have scampered off to explore and discover
things for himself, but the captain restrained him and
directed that the party should keep together. Andy car-
ried his long rifle, and Philip and Bromley had brought
up their carbines, so that they were prepared for any game
they might meet, even though it were to dispute progress
with a bear or panther. Since they had come up the
ladders the region was all quite new to Andy, and he no
longer pretended to guide them.
Back from the last ridge the ground sloped to a lower
level, much of which was bare of trees and so protected
from the wind that a rich soil had been made by the ac-
cumulation and decay of the leaves. At other points
there were waving grass and clumps of trees, which latter
shut off the view as they advanced, and opened up new
vistas as they passed beyond them. It could be seen in
the distance, however, that the southern end of the plateau
was closed in by a ledge parallel to and not unlike that
which they had already scaled, except that it was much
more formidable in height.
There was a stream of clear, cold water that was found
to come from a great bubbling spring. It broke out of
the base of this southern ledge, and after flowing for some
distance diagonally across the plateau tumbled over the
rocks on the Cashiers valley side and disappeared among
After inspecting this new ledge, which was clearly an
impassable barrier in that direction, and as effectually
28 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
guarded the plateau on that side as the precipices which
formed its other boundaries, the captain and his party-
turned back along the stream of water, for a plentiful
supply of water was more to be prized than anything they
could possibly discover on the mountain,
" There is one thing," said Andy, as they walked along
the left bank of the stream, " that you-all can depend no.
Risin' in the spring as hit does, that branch will flow on
just the same, summer or winter."
"Probably," said Lieutenant Coleman; "but then, you
know, we are not concerned about next winter."
A little farther on a rose-bush overhung the bank, and
at the next turn they found a grape-vine trailing its green
fruit across a rude trellis, which was clearly artificial. A
few steps more and they came to a foot-log flattened on
the top ; and, although it tottered under them, they crossed
to the other side, and coming around a clump of chinkapin-
bushes, they found themselves at the door of a poor hut of
logs, whose broken roof was open to the rain and sun.
The neglected fireplace was choked with leaves, and weeds
and bushes grew out of the cracks in the rotting floor ;
and, surely enough, in one dry corner stood the very
brown keg that Josiah Woodring had brought up the
mountain. In the midst of the dilapidation and the rot-
ting wood about it, it was rather surprising that the cask
should be as sound as if it were new, and the conclu-
sion was that it had been preserved by what it originally
Just then there was a cry from PhiHp, who had gone to
A DAY OF DISCOVEEIES 29
the rear of the hovel ; and he was found by the others lean-
ing over the grave of the old man of the mountain, and
staring at the thick oak headboard, which bore on the side
next the cabin these words :
ONE WHO WISHES TO BE FORGiOTTEN.
The letters were incised deep in the hard wood, and seemed
to have been cut with a pocket-knife. It was evident from
the amount of patient labor expended on the letters that
the work had been done by the unhappy old man himself,
perhaps years before he died. Of course it had been set
up by Josiah, who must have laid him in his last resting-
" That looks like Jo-siah was no Har, any more than he
was a murderer and robber," said Andy 5 '' and if the little
man could live up here twenty-five years, I reckon you
young fellers can get along two months."
A spot for camp was selected a few rods up the stream
from the poor old cabin and grave. This was at a con-
siderable distance from the ridge where the station was to
be, but it had two advantages to balance that one incon-
venience. In the first place, it was near the water, and
then no smoke from the cook-fire would ever be seen in
the vaUey below. Accordingly, the stores were ordered to
be brought to this point, and Corporal Bromley hurried
away to the head of the ladders to detain such articles as
would be needed at the station on the ridge. Below the
ledge the mides could be seen quietly browsing the grass,
and, to the annoyance of Lieutenant Coleman, a blue haze
30 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
was softly enveloping the distant mountains, as in a day
in Indian summer, so that it was no longer possible to
think of communicating with the next station, which was
ten miles away.
That being the ease, the afternoon was spent in pitching
the tents and making the general arrangements of the
camp. Owing to the difficulty of transportation, but the
barest necessaries of camp life were provided by the gov-
ernment ; and, notwithstanding his rank, Lieutenant Cole-
man had only an '^ A " tent, and Bromley and Philip two
pieces of shelter-tent and two rubber ponchos. It was
quickly decided by the two soldiers to use their pieces of
tent to mend the roof of the hut of the old man of the
mountain, and to store the rations as well as to make their
own quarters therein. From the Commissary Department
their supplies for sixty days consisted precisely of four
50-pound boxes of hard bread, 67 pounds 8 ounces bacon,
103 pounds salt beef, 27 pounds white beans, 27 pounds
dry peas, 18 pounds rice, 12 pounds roasted and ground
coffee, 8 ounces tea, 27 pounds light-brown sugar, 7 quarts
vinegar, 21 pounds 4 ounces adamantine candles, 7 pounds
4 ounces bar soap, 6 pounds 12 ounces table-salt, and 8
ounces pepper. The medical chest consisted of 1 quart of
commissary whisky and 4 ounces of quinine. Besides the
flags and telescope for use on the station, their only tools
were an ax and a hatchet. On ordinary stations it was the
rule to furnish lumber for building platforms or towers,
but here they were provided with only a coil of wire and
ten pounds of nails, and if platforms were necessary to get
A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 31
above the surrounding trees they must rely upon such
timber as they could get, and upon the ax to cut away
obstructions. Fortunately for this particular station, they
could occupy a commanding ridge and send their messages
from the ground.
Philip had by some means secured a garrison flag, which
was no part of the regular equipment ; and through Andy
they had come into possession of a dozen live chickens
and a bag of corn to feed them. On the afternoon before
the departure of the troopers, the captain, who had now
estabhshed the last of the line of stations, confided to
Lieutenant Coleman his final directions and cautions.
He asked Andy to point out Chestnut Knob, which was
the mountain of the blue pin, and whose bald top was in
full view to the right of Rock Mountain, and not more
than eight miles away in a southeasterly direction, and, as
Andy said, just on the border of the low country in South
Carohna. This was the mountain, the captain informed
Lieutenant Coleman, from which in due time, if everything
went well in regard to a certain mihtary movement, he
would receive important messages to flag back along the
What this movement was to be was still an official
secret at headquarters, and Lieutenant Coleman would be
informed by flag of the time when he would be required
to be on the lookout for a communication from the moun-
tain of the blue pin. At the close of his directions, the
captain, standing very stiff on his heels and holding his
cap in his hand, made a little speech to Lieutenant Cole-
32 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
man, in which he complimented him for his loyalty and
patriotic devotion to the flag, and reminded him that in
assigning him to the last station the commanding general
had thereby shown that he reposed especial confidence in
the coui'age, honor, and integrity of Lieutenant Frederick
Henry Coleman of the 12th Cavalry, and in the intelli-
gence and obedience of the young men who were asso-
ciated with him. This speech, delivered just as the
shadows were deepening on the lonely mountain-top,
touched the hearts of the three boys who were so soon to
be left alone, and was not a whit the less impressive be-
cause Andy plucked off his coonskin cap and cried, in his
homely enthusiasm, that " them was his sentiments to the
letter ! "
It was understood that there should be no signaling by
night, and no lights had been provided for that purpose ;
so that, there being nothing to detain them on the plateau,
they decided to accompany the captain and Andy back to
the bridge and see the last of the escort as it went down
Two of the troopers, contrary to orders, had during the
day been as far as the deserted cabin of Josiah Woodring,
and one of these beckoned Philip aside and told him where
he would find a sack of potatoes some one had hidden
away on the other side of the gorge, which, with much
disgust, he described as the only booty they had found
worth bringijig away.
So great is the love of adventure among the young that
there was not one of the troopers but envied his three
A DAY OF DISCOVEEIES 33
comrades who were to be left behind on the mountain ; but
it was a friendly rivalry, and, in view of the possibilities
of wild game, they insisted upon leaving the half of their
cartridges, which were gladly accepted by Philip and
The moon was obscured by thick clouds, and an hour
before midnight the horses were saddled, and with some
serious, but more jocular, words of parting, the troopers
started on the march down the mountain, most of them
hampered by an additional animal to lead. The captain
remained to press the hand of each of the three young
soldiers, and when at last he rode away and they turned
to cross the frail old bridge, whose unprotected sides could
scarcely be distinguished in the darkness, they began to
realize that they were indeed left to their own resources,
and to feel a trifle lonely, as you may imagine.
Before leaving that side of the gorge, however. Corporal
Bromley had shouldered their precious cartridges, which
had been collected in a bag, and on the other side Philip
secured the sack of potatoes ; and thus laden they trudged
away across the open field and among the rocks and
bushes, guided by the occasional glimpses they had of the
cliff fringed with trees against the leaden sky. It was of
the first importance that the cartridges should be kept dry,
and to that end they hurried along at a pace which scat-
tered them among the rocks and left but little opportunity
for conversation. Lieutenant Coleman was in advance,
with Philip's carbine on his arm ; next came Corporal
Bromley, with the cartridges ; and a hundred yards behind,
34 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
Philip was stumbling along with the sack of potatoes on
his shoulder. They had advanced in this order until the
head of the straggling column was scarcely more than a
stone's throw from the cliff, when a small brown object,
moving in the leaves about the foot of the ladder, uttered
a low growl and then disappeared into the deeper shadow
of the rock. At the same moment the rain began to fall,
and Corporal Bromley stepped one side to throw his bag
of cartridges into the open trunk of a hollow chestnut.
While he was thus engaged, with the double pui-pose of
freeing his hands and securing the cartridges from the
possibility of getting wet, his carbine lying on the ground
where he had hastily thrown it. Lieutenant Coleman jBred
at random at the point where he had indistinctly seen the
moving object. The darkness had increased with the
rain, and as the report of the carbine broke the quiet of
the mountain a shadowy ball of fur scampered by him,
scattering the leaves and gravel in its flight. The mys-
terious object passed close to Bromley as he was groping
about for his weapon, and the next moment there was a
cry from Philip, who had been thi*own to the ground and
his potatoes scattered over the hillside.
"Whatever it was," said Philip, when he presently
came up laughing at his mishap, "■ I don't believe it eats
potatoes, and I will gather them up in the morning."
As it was too dark for hunting, and the cartridges were
in a safe place. Lieutenant Coleman and Corporal Bromley
slung their carbines and followed Philip, who was the first
to find the foot of the ladder.
A DAY OF DISCOVERIES 35
It was not so dark but that they made their way safely
to the camp, and, weary with the labors of the day, they
were soon fast asleep in their blankets, unmindful of the
rain which beat on the " A " tent and on the patched roof
of the cabin of the old man of the mountain.
THE CIPHER CODE
|N the morning of July 4 the sun rose in a cloud-
less sky above the mountains, and the at-
mosphere was so clear that the most remote
objects were unusually distinct. The condi-
tions were so favorable for signaling that, after a hm-ried
breakfast, the three soldiers hastened to the point on the
ridge which they had selected for a station. Corporal
Bromley took position with a red flag having a large white
square in the center, and this he waved slowly from right
to left, while Lieutenant Coleman adjusted his spy-glass,
resting it upon a crotched limb which he had driven into
the ground ; and at his left Philip sat with a note-book and
pencil in hand, ready to take down the letters as Lieutenant
Coleman called them off. There are but three motions used
in signaling. When the flag from an upright position is
dipped to the right, it signifies 1 ; to the left, 2 ; and for-
ward, 3. The last motion is used only to indicate that the
end of the word is reached. Twenty-six combinations of
the figures 1 and 2 stand for the letters of the alphabet.
'COKPOKAL BKOMLEY TOOK POSITION WITH A KED FLAG HAVING A LARGE
WHITE SQUARE IN THE CENTEE."
THE CIPHER CODE
It is not an easy task to learn to send messages by these
combinations of the figures 1 and 2, and it is harder still
to read the flags miles away thi-ough the telescope. The
thi'ee soldiers had had much practice, however, and could
read the funny wigwag motions like print. K any two
boys care to learn the code, they can telegraph to each
other from hill to hiU, or from farm to farm, as weU as
George and Philip. You wiU see that the vowels and
the letters most used are made with the fewest motions—
as, one dip of the flag to the left (2) for I, and one to the
right (1) for T. Z is four motions to the right (1111) ; and
here is the alphabet as used in the signal-service :
When the flag stops at an upright position, it means the
end of a letter— as, twice to the right and stop (11) means
A ; one dip forward (3) indicates the end of a word ; 33,
40 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the end of a sentence ; 333, the end of a message. Thus
11-11-11-3 means "All right; we understand over here;
go ahead"; and 11-11-11-333 means "Stop signaling."
Then 212-212-212-3 means " Repeat ; we don't understand
what you are signaling"; while 12-12-12-3 means "We
have made an error, and if you will watch we will give the
message to you correctly."
Now, if Lieutenant Coleman wanted to say to another
signal-oflBcer " Send one man," the sentence would read in
figures, " 121, 21, 22, 111, 3, 12, 22, 21, 3, 2112, 11, 22, 33."
But in time of war the signalmen of the enemy could read
such messages, and so each party makes a cipher code
of its own, more or less difficult; and the code is often
changed. So if Lieutenant Coleman's cipher code was
simply to use for each letter sent the fourth letter later in
the alphabet, his figures would have been quite different,
and the letters they stood for would have read :
W-i-r-li s-r-i q-e-r.
S-e-n-d o-n-e m-a-n.
So, after fifteen minutes of waiting, during which time the
flag in Corporal Bromley's hand made a great rustling and
flapping in the wind, moving from side to side. Lieutenant
Coleman got his glass on the other flag, ten miles away,
and found it was waving 11-11-11-3— "All right." Cor-
poral Bromley then sent back the same signal, and sat
down on the bank to rest. What Lieutenant Coleman
saw at that distance was a little patch of red dancing
about on the object-glass of his telescope ; he could not see
THE CIPHER CODE 41
even the man who waved it, or the trees behind him.
Promptly at Bromley's signal "All right," the little object
came to a rest ; and when it presently began again, Lieu-
tenant Coleman called off the letters, which Philip repeated
as he entered them in the book. For an hour and a half
the messages continued repeating all the mass of figures
which had come over the line during the last three days.
When the mountain of the nineteenth red pin had said
its say as any parrot might have done, for it was abso-
lutely ignorant of the meaning of the figures it received
and passed on (for the reason that it had no of&eer with
the cipher). Lieutenant Coleman took from his pocket a
slip of paper on which he had already arranged his return
message to Chattanooga. When this had been despatched,
the lieutenant took the note-book from Philip, and went
away to his tent to cipher out the meaning of the still
They were sufficiently eager to get the latest news, for
they knew that the army they had just left had been ad-
vancing its works and fighting daily since the twenty-
second day of June for the possession of Kenesaw
Mountain. The despatches were translated in the order
in whicb they came, so that it was a good half -hour before
Lieutenant Coleman appeared with a radiant face to say
that General Sherman had taken possession of Kenesaw
Mountain on the day before. " And that is not all," he
cried, holding up his hand to restrain any premature out-
burst of enthusiasm. " Listen to this ! ' The " Alabama "
was sunk by the United States steamer '' Kearsarge " on
42 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the nineteentli day of June, three miles outside the harbor
of Cherbourg, on the coast of France.' "
Corporal Bromley was not a demonstrative man, yet the
blood rushed to his face, and there was a glittering light
in his eyes which told how deeply the news touched him ;
but Philip, on the contrary, was wild with delight, and
danced and cheered and turned somersaults on the grass.
MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS
■HAT a pity," cried Philip, " that the boys on the
next mountain should be left in ignorance of
these victories when we could so easily send
them the news without using the cipher— and
this the Fourth of July, too ! "
That form of communication, however, was strictly for-
bidden by the severe rules of the service, and it was the
fate of Number 19 to remain in the dark, like all the
other stations on the line, except the first and tenth and
their own, which alone were in charge of commissioned
officers who held the secret of the cipher.
The news of the destruction of the " Alabama," which
had been the terror of the National merchant-vessels for
two years, was of the highest importance, and would cause
great rejoicing throughout the North. Although the
battle with the '' Kearsarge " had taken place on June 19,
it must be borne in mind that this period was before the
permanent laying of the Atlantic cable, and European
news was seven and eight days in crossing the ocean by
44 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the foreign steamers, and might be three days late before
it started for this side, in case of an event which had hap-
pened three days before the sailing of the steamer. After
several unsuccessful attempts, a cable had been laid be-
tween Europe and America in 1858, three years before the
beginning of the great war, and had broken a few weeks
after some words of congratulation had passed between
Queen Victoria and President Buchanan. Some people
even believed that the messages had been invented by the
cable company, and that telegraphic communication had
never been established at all along the bed of the ocean.
At all events, news came by steamer in war-times, and
so it happened that these soldiers, who had been three
days in the wilderness, heard with great joy on July 4 of
the sinking of the "Alabama," which happened on the
coast of France on June 19.
The garrison flag was raised on a pole over the '* A "
tent, and the day was given up to enjoyment, which ended
in supping on a roast fowl, with such garnishings as their
limited larder would furnish. On this occasion Lieutenant
Coleman waived his rank so far as to preside at the head
of the table,— which was a cracker-box,— and after the
feast they walked together to the station and sat on the
rocks in the moonlight to discuss the military situation.
If General Grant had met with some rebuffs in his
recent operations against Petersburg in Virginia, he was
steadily closing his iron grasp on that city and Richmond ;
and not one of these intensely patriotic young men for
a moment doubted the final outcome. Philip and Lieu-
MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 45
tenant Coleman had been much depressed by the recent
disaster, and the news of the morning greatly raised their
spirits. If Bromley was less excitable than his compan-
ions, the impressions he received were more enduring;
but, on the other hand, he would be slower to recover
from a great disappointment.
" The reins are in a firm hand at last," said Lieutenant
Coleman, referring to the control then recently assumed
by General Grant, " and now everj^thing is bound to go
forward. With Grant and Sheridan at Richmond, Farra-
gut thundering on the coast, the ^ Alabama' at the bottom
of the sea, and •Uncle Billy forcing his lines nearer and
nearer to Atlanta, we are making brave progress. I be-
lieve, boys, the end is in sight."
" Amen ! " said Corporal Bromley.
" Hurrah ! " cried Philip.
"You boys," continued Lieutenant Coleman, "have en-
listed for three years, while I have been educated to the
profession of arms ; but if this rebellion is not soon put
down I shall be ashamed of my profession and leave it for
some more respectable calling."
So they continued to talk untU late into the night,
cheered by the good news they had heard, and very hopeful
of the future.
The following day was foggy, and Phihp went down the
ladder to bring up the potatoes, which he had quite for-
gotten in the excitement of the day before. Bromley, too,
paid a visit to the tree where he had thrown in the car-
tridges ; but the opening where he had cast in the sack was
46 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
SO far from the ground that it would be necessary to use
the ax to recover it, and as he could find no drier or safer
storehouse for the extra ammunition, he was content to
leave it there for the present. Lieutenant Coleman busied
himseK in writing up the station journal in a blank-book
provided for that purpose.
When Philip found his potatoes, which had been scat-
tered on the ground where he had been thrown down in
the darkness by the mysterious little animal, he was at
first disposed to leave them, for they were so old and
shrunken and small that he began to think the troopers
had been playing a joke on him. But when he looked
again, and saw the small sprouts peeping out of the eyes,
a new idea came to him, and he gathered them carefully
up in the sack. He bethought himself of the rich earth in
the warm hollow of the plateau, where the sun lay all day,
and where vegetation was only smothered by the coating
of dead leaves; and he saw the delightful possibility of
having new potatoes, of his own raising, before they were
relieved from duty on the mountain. What better amuse-
ment could they find in the long summer days, after the
morning messages were exchanged on the station, than to
cultivate a small garden? If he had had the seeds of
flowers, he might have thrown away the wilted potatoes ;
but next to the cultivation of flowers came the fruits of
the earth, and if his plantation never yielded anything, it
would be a pleasure to watch the vines grow. Lieutenant
Coleman readily gave his consent ; and, after raking off
the carpet of leaves with a forked stick, the soft, rich soil
MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 47
lay exposed to the sun, so deep and mellow that a piece of
green wood, flattened at the end like a wedge, was suffi-
cient to stir the earth and make it ready for planting.
Philip cut the potatoes into small pieces, as he had seen
the farmers do, and with the help of the others, who be-
came quite interested in the work, the last piece was buried
in the ground before sundown.
On the following morning the flags announced that, in
a cavalry raid around Petersburg, General Wilson had
destroyed sixty miles of railroad, and that forty days would
be requii'ed to repair the damage done to the Danville and
Richmond road. During the next three days there was no
news worth recording, and the fever of gardening having
taken possession of Philip, he planted some of the corn
they had brought up for the chickens, and a row each of
the peas and beans from their army rations.
The 10th of July was Sunday, the first since they had
been left alone on the mountain ; and Lieutenant Coleman
required his subordinates to clean up about the camp, and
at nine o'clock he put on his sword and inspected quar-
ters like any company commander. After this ceremony,
PhUip read a psalm or two from his prayer-book, and
Corporal Bromley turned over the pages of the Blue Book,
which was the Revised Army Regulations of 1863. These
two works constituted their limited library.
There was a dearth of news in the week that followed,
and what little came was depressing to these enthusiastic
young men, to whom the temporary inactivity of the army
which they had just left was insupportable.
48 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
On Monday morning, however, came the cheering news
that General Sherman's army was again in motion, and
had completed the crossing of the Chattahoochee River
the evening before.
On the 19th they learned that General Sherman had
established his lines within five miles of Atlanta, and that
the Confederate general Johnston had been relieved by
The messages by flag were received every day, when the
weather was favorable, between the hours of nine and ten
in the morning ; and now that the campaign had reopened
with such promise of continued activity, the days, and
even the nights, dragged, so feverish was the desire of the
soldiers to hear more. They wandered about the mountain-
top and discussed the military situation ; but, if anything
more than another tended to soothe their nerves, it was
the sight of their garden, in which the corn and potatoes
were so far advanced that each day seemed to add visibly
to their growth.
On the morning of the 21st they learned that Hood had
assaulted that flank of the intrenched line which was com-
manded by General Hooker, and that in so doing the enemy
had been three times gallantly repulsed. The new Con-
federate general was less prudent than the old one, and
they chuckled to think of the miles of log breastworks
they knew so well, at which he was hurling his troops.
General Sherman was their military idol, and they knew
how weU satisfied he would be with this change in the
tactics of the enemy.
MESSAGES OF DIRE DISASTERS 49
By this time it had become their habit to remain near
the station while Lieutenant Coleman figured out the
messages, each of which he read aloud as soon as he com-
prehended its meaning.
On Saturday morning, July 23, while Corporal Bromley
leaned stolidly on his flagstaff, and Philip walked about
impatiently. Lieutenant Coleman jumped up and read from
the paper he held in his hand :
" Hood attacked again yesterday. Repulsed with a loss
of seven thousand killed and wounded."
With no thought of the horrible meaning of these for-
midable figures to the widows and orphans of the men
who had fallen in this gallant charge, Philip and Bromley
cheered and cheered again, while the lieutenant sat down
to decipher the next message. When he had mastered it
the paper fell from his hands. He was speechless for the
"What is it?" said Philip, turning pale with the cer-
tainty of bad news.
"General McPherson is killed," said Lieutenant Cole-
Now, so strangely are the passions of men wrought up
in the time of war that these three hot-headed young
partizans were quick to shed tears over the death of one
man, though the destruction of a great host of their ene-
mies had filled their hearts only with a fierce delight.
During the Sunday which followed there was a feeling
of gloomy foreboding on the mountain, and under it a
fierce desire to hear what should come next.
50 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
On Monday morning, July 25, the sun rose in a cloud-
less sky, bathing the trees and all the distant peaks with
cheerful light, while at the altitude of the station his al-
most vertical rays were comfortable to feel in the cool
breeze which blew across the plateau. Lieutenant Cole-
man glanced frequently at the face of his watch, and the
instant the hands stood at nine Philip began waving the
flag. There was no response from the other mountain for
so long a time that Corporal Bromley came to his relief,
and the red flag with a white center continued to beat the
air with a rushing and fluttering sound which was painful
in the silence and suspense of waiting.
When at last the little flag appeared on the object-glass
of the telescope, it spelled but seven words and then dis-
appeared. Philip uttered an exclamation of surprise at
the brevity of the message, while Bromley wiped the per-
spiration from his forehead and waited where he stood.
In another minute Lieutenant Coleman had translated
the seven words, but even in that brief time Corporal
Bromley, whose eyes were fixed on his face, detected the
deathly pallor which spread over his features. The young
officer looked with a hopeless stare at his corporal, and
without uttering a word extended his hand with the scrap
of paper on which he had written the seven words of the
Bromley took it, while Philip ran eagerly forward and
looked tremb]ingly over his comrade's shoulder.
The seven words of the message read :
" General Sherman was killed yesterday before Atlanta."
IN WHICH THE THREE SOLDIERS MAKE
A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION
f lEUTENANT COLEMAN, although stunned by
the news conveyed by the seven words of the
message, as soon as he could reopen commu-
nication with the other mountain, telegraphed
back to Lieutenant Swann, in command of the tenth
"Is there no mistake in flagging General Sherman's
It was late in the afternoon when the return message
came, which read as follows :
" None. I have taken the same precaution to telegraph
back to the station at Chattanooga.
" Lieutenant James Swann, U. S. A."
After this, and the terrible strain of waiting. Lieutenant
Coleman and Corporal Bromley walked away in different
directions on the mountain-top; and poor Philip, left
52 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
alone, sat down on the ground and burst into tears over
the death of his favorite general. He saw nothing but
gloom and disaster in the future. What would the old
army do without its brilliant leader ?
And, sure enough, on the following morning came the
news that the heretofore victorious army was falling back
across the Chattahoochee ; and another despatch confirmed
the death of General Sherman, who had been riding along
his lines with a single orderty when he was shot through
the heart by a sharp-shooter of the enemy.
Every morning after that the three soldiers went up to
the station at the appointed hour, expecting only bad news,
and, without fail, only bad news came. They learned that
the baffled army in and about Marietta was being re-
organized by General Thomas ; but the ray of hope was
quenched in their hearts a few days later, when the news
came that General Grant had met with overwhelming dis-
aster before Richmond, and, like McClellan before him,
was fighting his way back to his base of supplies at City
One day— it was August 6— there came a message from
the chief signal-office at Chattanooga directing them to
remain at their posts, at all hazards, until further orders ;
and, close upon this, a report that General Grant's army
was rapidly concentrating on Washington by way of the
They had no doubt that the swift columns of Lee were
already in motion overland toward the National capital,
and they were not likely to be many days behind the
'POOE PHILIP, LEFT ALONE, BURST INTO TEAES."
A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 55
Federal army in concentrating at that point. Rumors of
foreign intei-vention followed quick on the heels of this
disheartening news, and on August 10 came a despatch
which, being interpreted, read : " Yesterday, after a forced
march of incredible rapidity, Longstreet's corps crossed
the Upper Potomac near the Chain Bridge, and captured
two forts to the north of Rock Creek Church. At daylight
on August 9, after tearing up a section of the Baltimore
and Ohio's tracks, a column of cavalry under Fitzhugh
Lee captured a train-load of the government archives,
bound for Philadelphia."
Thus on the very day when General Sherman was bom-
barding the city of Atlanta, and when everything was
going well with the National cause elsewhere, these mis-
guided young men were brought to the verge of despair
by some mysterious agency which was cunningly falsify-
ing the daily despatches. Nothing more melancholy can
be conceived than the entries made at this time by Lieu-
tenant Coleman in the station diary.
Returning to the entry of July 26, which was the day
following that on which they had received information
of the death of General Sherman, the unhappy officer
" My men are intensely patriotic, and the despatch came
to each of us like a personal blow. Its effect on my two
men was an interesting study of character. Corporal
Bromley is a Harvard man, having executive ability as
well as education far above his humble rank, who entered
56 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the service of liis country at the first call to arms without
a thought for his personal advantage. He is a man of
high courage, and if he has a fault, it is a too outspoken
intolerance of the failures of his superiors. Private Wel-
ton is of a naturally refined and sensitive nature, and at
fii'st he seemed wholly cowed and broken in spirit. Brom-
ley, on the other hand, as he strode away from the station,
showed a countenance livid with rage.
"After supper, for we take our meals apart, I invited
the men to my tent, and we sat out in the moonlight to
discuss the probable situation. We talked of the over-
whelming news until late in the evening, and then sat for
a time in silence in the shadow of the chestnut-trees, look-
ing out at the dazzling whiteness of the mountain-top
before retiring, each to his individual sorrow."
In the entry for August 6, after commenting somewhat
bitterly on the report of the defeat of the Army of the
Potomac, Lieutenant Coleman says, with reference to the
despatch from the chief signal-of&cer of the same date :
"The situation at this station is such, owing to our
ignorance of the sentiment of the mountaineers and the
hazard of visiting them in uniform, that I find a grave
difficulty confronting me, which must be provided for at
once. Our guide to this point has returned to Tennessee
with the cavalry escort, and I have now reason deeply to
regret that he was not required to put us in communica-
tion with some trustworthy Union men. The issue of
A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 57
commissary stores is reduced from this date to half -rations,
and we shall begin at once to eke out our daily portion by
such edibles as we can find on the mountain. Huckle-
berries are abundant in the field above the bridge, and the
men are ah*eady counting on the wild mandrakes.
*' August 8. Nothing cheering to brighten the gloom of
continued defeat and disaster. The necessity of procuidng
everything edible within our reach keeps my men busy
and affords them something to think of besides the dis-
asters to the National armies. Welton discovered to-day
four fresh-laid eggs, snugly hidden in a nest of leaves,
under a clump of chestnut sprouts, interwoven with dry
grasses, three of which he brought in."
These entries referring to trivial things are interesting
as showing the temper of the men, and how they employed
their time at this critical period.
On August 18 came a despatch that the Army of North-
ern Virginia was entering Washington without material
opposition. Lieutenant Coleman, in a portion of his diary
for this date, says :
" After a prolonged state of anger, during which he has
commented bitterly on the conduct of affairs at Washing-
ton, Corporal Bromley has settled into a morose and ir-
ritable mood, in which no additional disaster disturbs him
in the slightest degree. With his fine perceptions and
well-trained mind, the natural result of a liberal education,
I have found him heretofore a most interesting companion
58 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
in hours off duty. My situation is made doubly intoler-
able by his present condition."
At 9 : 30 A. M, of August 20, 1864, came the last des-
patches that were received by the three soldiers on White-
" Hold on for immediate relief. Peace declared. Con-
federate States are to retain Washington."
The effect of this last message upon the J^oung men who
received it is fully set forth in the diary of the following
day, and no later account could afford so vivid a picture
of the remarkable events recorded by Lieutenant Coleman :
'' August 21, 1864. The messages of yesterday were
flagged with the usual precision, and we have no reason
to doubt their accuracy. Indeed, what has happened was
expected by us so confidently that the despatches as trans-
lated by me were received in silence by my men and with-
out any evidence of excitement or surprise. I myself felt
a sense of relief that the inevitable and disgraceful end
"Last evening was a memorable occasion to the three
men on this mountain. We are no longer separated by
any difference in rank, having mutually agreed to waive
all such conditions. In presence of such agreement, I,
Frederick Henry Coleman, Second Lieutenant in the 12th
Regiment of Cavalry of the military forces of the United
States (formerly so caDed), have this day, August 21, 1864,
A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 59
written my resignation and sealed and addressed it to the
Adjutant-General, wherever he may be. I am fully aware
that, until the document is forwarded to its destination,
only some power outside myself can terminate my ofiicial
connection with the army, and that my personal act oper-
ates only to divest me of rank in the estimation of my
companions in exile.
" After our supper last night we walked across the field
in front of our quarters and around to the point where
the northern end of the plateau joins the rocky face of the
mountain. The sun had already set behind the opposite
ridge, and the gathering shadows among the rocks and
under the trees added a further color of melancholy to our
gloomy and foreboding thoughts.
" I am forced to admit that I have not been the domi-
nant spirit in the resolution at which we have arrived.
George Bromley had several times asserted that he
would never return to a disgraced and divided country.
At the time I had regarded his words as only the irrespon-
sible expression of excitement and passion.
" As we stood together on the hill last night, Bromley
reverted to this subject, speaking with unusual calmness
and deliberation. ' For my part,' said he, pausing to give
force to his decision, 'I never desire to set foot in the
United States again. I suppose I am as well equipped for
the hf e of a hermit as any other man ; and I am sure that
my temper is not favorable to meeting my countrymen,
who are my countrymen no longer, and facing the humilia-
tion and disgrace of this defeat. I have no near relatives
60 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEES
and no personal attachments to compensate for what I
regard as the sacrifice of a return and a tacit acceptance
of the new order of things. I came into the army fresh
from a college course which marked the close of my youth ;
and shall I return in disgrace, without a profession or
ambition, to begin a new career in the shadow of this
overwhelming disaster ? I bind no one to my resolution,'
he continued in clear, cold tones ; ' aU I ask is that you
leave me the old flag, and I will set up a country of my
own on this mountain-top, whose natural defenses will
enable me to keep away all disturbers of my isolation.'
'' I was deeply impressed with his words, and the more
so because of the absence of all passion in his manner. I
had respected him for his attainments ; I now felt that I
loved the man for his unselfish, consuming love of coun-
try. Strange to say, I, too, was without ties of kindred.
My best friends in the old army had fallen in battle for
the cause that was lost. On the night when we sat to-
gether exulting over the double victory of the capture of
Kenesaw Mountain and the sinking of the ' Alabama,' I
had expressed a determination to renounce my chosen pro-
fession in a certain event. That event had taken place.
Under the magnetic influence of Bromley, what had only
been a threat before became a bitter impulse and then a
"Taking his hand and looking steadily into his calm
eyes, I said : ' I am an officer of the United States army,
but I will promise you this : until I am ordered to do so,
I will never leave this place.'
A REMARKABLE RESOLUTION 61
" Philip Welton had been a silent listener to this strange
conversation. His more sentimental nature was melted to
tears, and in a few words he signified his resolution to join
his fate with ours.
" We walked back across the mountain-top in the white
light of the full moon, silently as we had come. After
the resolve we had made, I began already to experience a
sense of relief from the shame I felt at the failure of our
numerous armies. The old government had fallen from
its proud position among the nations of the earth. The
flag we loved had been trampled under foot and despoiled
of its stars— of how many we knew not. Our path lay
through the plantation of young corn, whose broad, glisten-
ing leaves brushed our faces and filled the air with the
sweet fragrance of the juicy stalks. The planting seemed
to have been an inspiration which alone would make it
possible for us to survive the fii-st winter."
WHICH ENDS m A BATTLE
^HE morning after the three soldiers had pledged
themselves to a life of exile, like the (otherwise)
practical young persons they were, they pro-
ceeded resolutely to take stock of the provisions
they had on hand and to consider the means of adding to
their food-supply. They had already been nearly two
months in camp, which was the period for which their
rations had been issued; but, what with the generous
measure of the government and the small game they had
brought down with their carbines, nearly half of the origi-
nal supply remained on storage in the hut of the old man
of the mountain. It is true that there was but one box
left of the hard bread ; but the salt beef, which had been
covered with brine in the cask found in the corner of the
cabin, had scarcely been touched. A few strips of the
bacon still hung from the rafters. Of the peas and beans,
only a few scattering seeds lay here and there on the floor.
The precious salt formed but a small pile by itself, but
there was stiU a brave supply of coffee and sugar, and the
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 63
best part of the original package of rice. In another month
they would have green corn and potatoes of their own
growing, and they already had eggs, as, fortunately, they
had killed none of their hens.
The tract of ground on the mountain was a half-hundred
acres in extent, with an abundance of wood and water,
protected on the borders by trees and bushes, and acces-
sible only by the wooden ladder by which they themselves
had come up the ledge. Their camp was in the center of
the tract, where the smoke of their fires would never be
seen from the valleys. Overhanging the boulder face of
the mountain, just back of the ridge they had used for a
signal-station, was a cliunp of black oaks, through which
something like an old trail led down to a narrow tongue
of land caught on a shelf of granite, which was dark with
a tall growth of pines, and the earth beneath was covered
with a thick, gray carpet of needles, clean and springy to
the feet. Along the southern cliff, and to the west of the
spring which welled out from under the rock, was a cur-
tain of dogwoods and birches, and elsewhere the timber
was chestnut. At some points the trees of the latter
variety were old and gnarled, and clung to the rocks by
fantastic twisted roots like the claws of great birds, and
at others they grew in thrifty young groves, three and four
lusty trunks springing from the sides of a decayed stump.
They were certainly in the heart of the Confederacy, but
the plateau was theirs by the right of possession, and over
this, come what might, they were determined that the old
flag with its thirty-five stars should continue to float. They
64 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
at least would stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that there
had been any change in the number of States.
Owing to the danger of being seen, they agreed together
that no one should go down the ladder dimng the dsiy.
They were satisfied that they had not been seen since they
had occupied the mountain. They had no reason to believe
that any human being had crossed the bridge since the
night the captain and his troopers had ridden away into
the darkness; but still the bridge remained, the only
menace to their safety, and, mth the military instinct of a
small army retreating in an enemy's country, they deter-
mined to destroy that means of reaching them.
Accordingly, when night came, Lieutenant Coleman and
George Bromley, leaving Philip asleep in the hut, armed
themselves with the ax and the two carbines, and took
their way across the lower field to the deep gorge. They
had not been there since the night they parted with the
captain and Andy, the guide. It was very still in this
secluded place— even stiller, they thought, for the ceaseless
tinkling of the branch in the bottom of the gorge. They
had grown quite used to the stillness and solitude of na-
ture in that upper wilderness. Enough of moonlight fell
through the branches overhead so that they could see the
forms of the trees that grew in the gorge ; and the moon
itself was so low in the west that its rays slanted under
the bridge and touched with a ghostly light the dead top
of a great basswood which forked its giant limbs upward
like beckoning arms. Then there was one ray of light
that lanced its way to the very heart of the gorge, and
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 65
touched a tiny patch of sparkling water alongside a shin-
They had the smallest ends of the string-pieces to deal
with, as the trees had fallen from the other side. Bromley
wielded the ax, which fell at first with a muffled sound in
the rotten log, and then, as he reached the tougher heart,
rang out clear and sharp, and echoed back from down the
gorge. Presently he felt a weakening in the old stick, and,
stepping back, he wiped his forehead on the sleeve of his
jacket. The stillness which followed the blows of the ax
was almost startling ; and the night wind which was rising
on the mountain sounded like the rushing of wings in the
tops of the pines on the opposite bank.
After another moment's rest. Corporal Bromley laid his
ax to the other string-piece. Lieutenant Coleman had
taken position a few yards below the bridge, with his arm
around a young chestnut, where he could detect the first
movement of the swaying timbers. Fragments of bark
and rotten wood were shaken from the crazy structure at
every stroke of the ax, and a tiny chipmunk sprang out
of his home in the stones, frightened at the chopping, and
fled with light leaps across the doomed causeway. Now
the blows fall more slowly, and after each stroke the ax-
man steps back to listen. At last he hears a measured
crackling in the resinous heart of the old log. He hears
earth and small stones dropping from the abutment into
the branches of the trees below. The structure lurches to
one side ; there is a sound like a dull explosion ; a few loose
sticks dance in the yellow cloud of dust that rises thick
66 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
and stifling from the broken banks, and the toUsome work
of thirty years before is undone in as many minutes.
When the dust-cloud had di'ifted off, our two heroes,
who had retreated for safety, came cautiously back and
looked over into the gorge. They were startled at what
they saw ; for the frame of the old bridge was poised in
the moonlight like Mohammed's coffin, and swaying mock-
ingly, as if the soul of the old man of the mountain had
taken refuge in its timbers. Its slivered planks stood up
like the fins of some sea-monster, crisscrossed and trem-
bling, and spread out like the broken sticks of a fan.
" Good ! " said Lieutenant Coleman ; "it has lodged in
the forked arms of the dead basswood ; and the mountain
people will attach some mystery to its going, as they did
to its coming."
He said '' Good ! " because the more mystery there was
between their retreat and the enemy outside, the better.
It would be many a long year now before anybody would
be likely to come to distui'b them ; and with this thought
in their hearts, they slung their carbines and took the way
When they had come as far as the hoUow tree into which
the cartridges had been thrown on the first night to keep
them from the rain, they halted ; and George Bromley felt
of the edge of the ax as he measured the height of the
opening above the ground with his eye. He was not quite
satisfied with this kind of measurement, and so, leaning
against the old trunk, he thrust his right arm to its full
length into the broad, black cavity. He was about to
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 67
touch with his fingers the spot outside, opposite to which
his right hand reached, when something like an exclama-
tion of anger fell from his lips, and he lifted out of the
opening a bear cub as large as a woodchuck. Bromley's
bare hand had landed unexpectedly in the soft fur of the
animal, and, with an absence of fear peculiar to himself,
he had closed his powerful grip on the unknown object,
and lifted out the young bear by the nape of its neck.
Strong as he was, he was unable to hold the squirming
cub until he had turned it over on its back and planted
his knee on its chest.
Behind the tree there was a great, dark hole among the
rocks, which was the real entrance to the bears' den ; and
expecting an attack from that quarter. Lieutenant Cole-
man stood quietly in the moonlight, with his thumb on
the lock of his carbine. As there was no movement any-
where, he presently retui-ned to the hole in the tree, and
prudently thrust in his short gun, which he worked about
until the broad, flat end of the hinged ramrod was en-
tangled in the coarse meshes of the sack. The cartridges
were bone-dry after seven weeks in the bears' den, and the
young cub was thrust into the bag, where he growled and
struggled against the unknown power that was bearing
They had neither chains nor cage nor strong boxes, and
when they had come safely back to the cabin with their
prize they were greatly puzzled as to how they should
secure it for the night. Philip was sleeping soundly on a
bed of boughs in one corner, and showed no disposition to
68 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
wake. They were careful not to distui'b him, wishing to
prepare a pleasant surprise for him when he should wake
in the morning and find the captured cub.
" I have it," said Bromley, when his eyes had traveled
around the room to the fireplace ; " the cub can't climb up
the smooth stones of the chimney, and we will find a way
to shut it in by blocking up the fireplace."
They unslung the door of the cabin from its wooden
hinges, and, after slipping the young bear from the mouth
of the sack into the soft ashes, they quickly closed the
opening, and secured the door in place, putting the meat-
cask against one end and a heavy stone against the other.
After a little disturbance in the ashes all was quiet in
the fireplace. Lieutenant Coleman went away to his tent,
and in five minutes after he lay down George Bromley
was fast asleep beside Philip.
At this time the moon was shining in at the open door ;
but shortly afterward it set behind the western ridges, and
in the hour before daybreak it was unusually dark on the
mountain. Bromley was sleeping more lightly than usual,
and, following his experience of the night, he was dream-
ing of desperate encounters with bears ; or this may have
happened because the cub in the chimney from time to
time put his small nose to a hole in the door and whined,
and then growled as he fell back into the ashes.
One of the light cracker-boxes stood on end just inside
the door, and it was the noise of this object thrown over
on the floor that startled Bromley in the midst of his
dream, just at the point where he saw the bear approach-
THE MOTHER BEAR COMES FOR HEK CUB.
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 71
ing. He was awake in an instant, but the spell of the
dream was still on him, and he wondered that, instead of
the huge form of the bear of his sleep, he saw only two
glittering eyes in the doorway. For an instant he was at
a loss to tell where he was. He saw the grayish opening
of the window in the surrounding blackness, and a peculiar
hole in the roof not quite covered by the pieces of shelter-
tent ; and just as he came to himself the cub in the chim-
ney, smelling its mother, whined joyfully at the hole in the
door. With a deep growl the old bear scrambled over the
creaking floor to her young one. Instinctively Bromley
put out his hand for his carbine, and then he remembered
that both guns had been left lying on the stone hearth.
At the same time Philip awoke with a start, and the she-
bear, scenting her natural enemies, uttered a growl which
was half a snarl, and was about to charge into the corner
where they lay, when Bromley snatched the blankets and
threw them so dexterously over the gleaming eyes that in
the momentary confusion of the brute he had time to drag
and push Philip through the open door and out of the
Furious as the beast was, she had no disposition to fol-
low the boys into the open air. Her natural instinct kept
her in the neighborhood of her imprisoned offspring, where
she sat heavily on the two carbines and growled fiercely.
The bear now had full and undisputed possession of the
cabin, as well as of the entire stock of firearms, which
absurd advantage she held until daylight, while Bromley
and Philip sat impatiently in the lower Umbs of an old
72 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
chestnut, where they had promptly taken refuge. Bromley
had secured the ax in his retreat, and whUe PhUip sat
securely above him, he guarded the approach along the
sloping trunk, and would have welcomed the bear right
gladly. They were near enough to throw sticks upon the
"A" tent, and before dayUght Lieutenant Coleman was
awakened and was lodged in the branches with them.
" How very fortunate ! " said Philip from the top of the
tree. " "We shall have a supply of jerked bear's meat for
''Not so long as the bear sits on the carbines," said
Bromley, with a grim smile.
" If we could get that young cub out of the chimney—"
said Lieutenant Coleman.
" Or the old bear into it," suggested Philip.
''Either way," said the lieutenant, "would put us in
possession of the guns, and decide the battle in our favor."
By the time they had, in their imaginations, dressed the
bear and tanned her skin, it began to be light enough to
enter upon a more vigorous and offensive campaign. This
idea seemed to strike the bear at the same time, for she
came out of the door, and, after sniffing the morning air,
shambled tliree times around the cabin, smelling and
clawing at the base of the chimney in each passage. Hav-
ing made this survey of her suiToundings, she returned to
her post and lay down on the carbines.
These carbines were old smooth-bore muskets cut down
for cavalry arms and fitted with a short bar and sliding
ring over the lock-plate, which was stamped "Tower—
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 73
London, 1862." They carried a ball fixed in front of a
paper cartridge, and were fired by means of a percussion-
cap. The pieces were loaded where they lay, with caps
under the locks.
There was a crevice between the logs at that side of the
chimney where the door was held in position by the stone,
and the wooden spade which Philip had used in his plant-
ing could be seen from where the three soldiers sat in the
tree, lying across the grave of the old man of the moun-
tain. Lieutenant Coleman and Bromley slipped down to
the ground and ran around to the back of the hut. The
end of the door could be seen against the crevice, which
was just above the level of the floor. The men took care
to keep close to the chimney, so as to be out of sight of
the bear, and when they had fixed their lever under the
edge of the door they easily raised it high enough to let
out the cub.
When this was done they mounted to the roof of the
cabin, Coleman armed with the wooden spade and Bromley
with the ax. The bear came out presently, with the cub
at her side, its thick fur gray with ashes. The two were
headed to pass between the tent and the chestnut-tree, and
when the old bear stopped at the foot of the trunk and
raised her head with a threatening growl, Bromley stood
up on the roof and hurled the ax, which slightly wounded
the bear in the flank and caused her to charge back toward
the cabin, while the bewildered cub scrambled up the tree
in which Philip sat.
Philip only laughed and called loudly to his comrades
74 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
to get the guns. At the sound of his voice the she-bear
turned about, and, seeing her cub in the tree, began scram-
bhng up after it. At this quite unexpected turn in affaii-s
Phihp began to clunb higher, no longer disposed to laugh,
while Bromley jumped down on the opposite side of the
cabin and secured the carbines, one of which he passed up
to Lieutenant Coleman on the roof. Now, Coleman had a
clear eye and a steady hand with a gun, and would have
hit the heart of the bear with his bullet like the handiest
old sport of the woods, but as the animal crouched in the
crotch of the tree a great limb covered her side and head.
By this time Philip was as high as he dared to chmb. The
cub from the ashes was hugging the same slender limb,
breathing on his naked feet, and the old bear, with bris-
tling hair and erect ears, was growling where she lay, and
putting out her great claws to go aloft after Philip. This
was the critical moment, when Bromley ran under the
tree and shot the bear. His ball went crashing into her
shoulder instead of between the ribs behind, as he had
meant it should. It was just as well, he thought, when .he
saw her come rolUng along the trunk to the ground as if
she were thrice dead. If he had only known bears a little
better, he would probably have exchanged carbines and
kept a safe distance from the animal ; and even then, in
the end, it might have been worse for him.
He had only broken her big, shaggy shoulder, and as
he came near to the wounded brute she rose suddenly on
her hind feet and dealt him such a whack with her sound
paw as nearly broke his ribs and sent him roUing over
'SHE EOSE SCTDDEXLT ON HER HIXD FEET AXD DEALT HIM SUCH A WHACK
AS :yEAKLT BEOKE HIS EIBS."
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 77
and over on the ground. Bear and man were so mixed in
the air that even Coleman feared to risk a shot. Poor
Bromley, crippled and bleeding at the nose, lay almost
helpless on his back under the tree, and in this state the
maddened bear charged furiously on him, her foaming and
bloody jaws extended. Half stunned and more than half
beaten, he had retained his cool nerve and a firm grip on
his empty carbine ; and as the bear came over him, with
all his remaining strength he crushed the clumsy weapon
into her open mouth like a huge bit. She was so near
that he felt her hot breath on his face, and saw her flam-
ing eyes through the blood which nearly blinded his own.
Bromley felt his strength going. The breath was nearly
crushed out of his body by the weight of the bear, baffled
for an instant by the mass of ii-on between her jaws.
Philip, drawing up his toes from the cub, forgot his own
peril as he gazed down in terror at the struggle below. At
the moment which he believed was Bromley's last a quick
report rang out from the roof, and the great bear rolled
heavily to one side, with Lieutenant Coleman's bullet in
It is not to be supposed that in the excitement of
destroying bridges and killing bears Lieutenant Coleman
neglected the signal-station. Morning after morning they
waved their flag, and watched the summit of Upper Bald
through the glass. No one could be more eager than
were the three soldiers without a country to hear some
further news of the old government they had loved and
78 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
lost. They even turned their attention to Chestnut Knob.
The entries in the diary show that this duty was continued
hopelessly through September, with no reply to their sig-
nals from either mountain.
That disaster had overtaken the armies of the United
States they accepted as a fact, and busied themselves about
their domestic affairs that they might, being occupied, the
more easily forget their great disappointment. The flesh
of the bear was cured in long strips by the cool air and
hot sun. To protect themselves from another unwelcome
sui'prise, they removed the short upper ladder from the
ledge in the cliff, and the bear cub, which had become a
great pet under the name of " Tumbler," was allowed the
range of the plateau.
In this month of September the soldier exiles built a
comfortable new house on ground a little in front of the
old hut. Its walls were constructed of chestnut logs cut
from the grove to the west, where they could be easily
rolled down the hill, after which they were scored with the
ax on the inner side, and notched so as to fit quite closely
together. The roof was made of rafters and flattened
string-pieces, and covered with shingles which they split
from short sections of oak, and which were held in place
with the nails that had been provided for the station. The
floor was of pounded clay, raised a foot above the ground
outside. It was a prodigious labor to bring down on
rollers the great flat stone which they dug out of the hill-
side for the fireplace. After this was laid firmly for a
hearth, they built the chimney outside, laying the stones
WHICH ENDS IN A BATTLE 79
in a mortar of clay until the throat was siifficiently narrow ;
and after that they carried the flue above the ridge-pole
with sticks thickly plastered with mud. The house had
two windows under the eaves opposite to each other ; and
the doorway, which was in the gable end facing the fire-
place, was fitted with the door from the old cabin, which
they had no doubt had been framed down the mountain,
and brought up by Josiah after midnight, and most likely
it had been paid for with some of the strange gold pieces
which had excited the suspicion of the gossips in the
It was a wonderfully comfortable house to look at, and
almost made them long for the fall rain to beat on the
roof, and for the cold nights when they could build a fire
in the great chimney.
THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME
\ T was now October, and time to being harvesting
the crop on the little plantation, which some-
thing very like an inspiration had prompted
Philip to plant. While Lieutenant Coleman
continued work on the house, stopping the chinks between
the logs with clay, and repairing the roof of the hut with
spare shingles, Bromley and Philip "topped" the corn,
cutting off the stalks above the ripened ears. Then the
potatoes were thrown out of the mellow soil with a wooden
shovel, and left to dry in the sun, while a level place was
prepared in the center of the plot, and thickly spread with
a carpet of diy stalks. Upon this surface, after removing
a few bushels to the hut, the crop was gathered into a
conical heap and thatched over with stalks, and then the
whole was thickly covered with earth and trenched about
to turn off the water.
It was estimated that this cache contained thirty bushels,
which, according to the table in the Blue Book (Revised
THE PLATEAU EECEIVES A NAME 81
Army Regulations), would exceed the potato ration of three
men for a period of five years.
From the day of their arrival on the mountain, Lieu-
tenant Coleman had never failed to make a daily entry in
the station journal ; and now that they had set up a coun-
try for themselves, he foresaw that the continuance of this
practice would be necessary if they were not to lose the
record of weeks and months. His entry was always brief.
Often it was no more than the date, and even the more
important events were set down with the utmost brevity
Once a week he noted the recurrence of the Sabbath, and
on that day they suspended ordinary labor, and, if the
weather was pleasant, inspected their increasing domestic
comforts on the mountain-top and laid their plans for the
future. After their military habit, the morning of Sunday
was devoted to personal cleanliness and to tidying up
about their quarters.
As the commissary supply of yeUow bars diminished, it
was evident that the time would soon come when they
should be obliged to make their own soap. Back of the
chestnut-tree in which they had taken refuge from the
bear was a peculiar hoUowed rock, and above it a flat shelf
of stone, on which Philip erected a hollow log for leaching
ashes. A little patient chipping of the upper stone with
the ax-head made a shallow furrow along which the lye
would trickle from the leach, and fall into the natural
basin in the rock below, which was large enough to hold
a half-barrel. This was a happy device, as the strong
82 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
liquid would have eaten its way through any vessel other
than an iron pot or an earthen jar, of which unfortunately
they possessed neither.
They had but a limited supply of hard corn, from which
they selected the best ears for the next year's planting.
These they braided together by the husks, and hung up in
yellow festoons from the rafters of the hut, which they
continued to use as a storehouse. Much of what remained
of their small crop would be needed by the fowls in the
winter, and up to this time they had made no use of it for
their own food.
Meal was out of the question, and to break the flinty
kernels between stones was a tedious process to which they
had not yet been forced to resort.
The presence of the lye, however, suggested to Bromley
the hulled corn of his New England gi'andmother, which
he had seen her prepare by soaking and boiling the kernels
in a thin solution of lye. By this means the hulls or skins
were removed, and after cleansing from potash, and boil-
ing all day, the unbroken kernels became as white and
tender as rice.
This satisfied the three soldiers for a time, and made an
agreeable addition to their diet of bear steak and potatoes.
In the mountains of Tennessee Lieutenant Coleman had
once seen a rude hydrauhc contrivance called a Slow-John,
which was a sort of lazy man's mill. To construct this
affair it was necessary to have a bucket, which Bromley
set about making by the slow process of burning out a
section of chestnut log with the red-hot ramrod of a carbine.
THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 83
At a short distance above the house, the branch which
flowed from the spring, after making its refreshing way
between grassy banks, tumbled over a succession of ledges
which ended in a small cascade, and twelve feet below this
waterfall there was a broad, flat rock which laved its mossy
sides in the branch, and showed a clean, flat surface above
the level of the water. Below this rock they built a dam
of stones, by means of which they could flood its surface.
Four feet up-stream from the rock a log was fixed from
bank to bank for a ftdcrum, and upon this rested a mov-
able lever, the short arm of which terminated above the
submerged rock, while the long arm just touched the water
of the cascade. A wooden pin set in the under log passed
through a slot in the lever, so as to hold it in position and
at the same time give it free play. Another flat stone of
about thirty pounds' weight, which was the pestle of the
mortar, was lashed with grape-vine thongs to the short
arm of the lever directly over the submerged stone. To
the long arm was attached Bromley's bucket, bailed with
a strong wire, and so hung as to catch the water of the
cascade. As the bucket filled and sank, its weight raised
the flat stone higher and higher above the submerged rock
until the bucket met a bar fixed to tilt its contents into
the stream, when the upper miUstone came down upon its
fellow with a fine splash and thud. After a wall of clay
had been built about the surface where the two stones
met, to keep the corn in place, the Slow-John was ready
It was slow, but it was sure, and after that, when one
84 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
of the three soldiers awoke in the night, it was cheerful to
hear the regular splash and crash of the Slow-John, like
the ticking of a huge clock, lazy enough to tick once a
minute, and patient enough to keep on ticking for two
days and nights to pulverize as many quarts of corn.
And now, for three young men who had solemnly re-
nounced their country and cut themselves off voluntarily
from all intercourse with their kind, they were about as
cheerful and contented as could be expected. In spite of
the great disaster which they beheved had befallen the
National cause, their lungs expanded in the rare mountain
air, and the good red blood danced in their veins, and with
youth and health of body it was impossible to take an
altogether gloomy view of life. They had at first tried
hard to be miserable, but natui-e was against them, and the
effort had been a failure. In their free life they could no
more resist the infection of happiness than the birds in
the trees could refrain from singing, and so it came to
pass that in view of the bountiful harvest they had gath-
ered, and the comfortable house they had built, and aU
the domestic conveniences they had contrived. Lieutenant
Coleman came out boldly in favor of setting apart Thurs-
day, the twenty-fourth day of November, as a Day of
Thanksgiving, and quite forgot to name it a day of
humiliation as well. To this the others joyfully agreed,
and agreed, moreover, that from that day forward the
plateau should be called Lincoln Territory in memory of
the patriotism of the good President, notwithstanding they
felt that his divided counselors and incompetent generals
THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 85
had wiped the half of a great nation from the map of the
When this first holiday dawned on the mountain, the
three soldiers arrayed themselves in full uniform for
the ceremony of naming theii* possessions. Bromley and
Philip buckled on their cavalry swords and slung their
carbines at their backs, and Lieutenant Coleman, for the
last time, assumed his discarded rank to take command.
The arms had been polished the day before until they
gleamed and flashed in the morning light, and the little
army of two was dressed and faced and inspected, and
then left at parade-rest while Lieutenant Coleman brought
out the flag. How their honest hearts swelled with pride
to think that here, alone in aU the world, that flag would
continue to float with an undiminished field of stars !
Little did they dream that on that very morning hundreds
like it were waving in the heart of Georgia over Sherman's
legions on their march to the sea. When at last it blew
out from the staff, they gathered under its folds, and sang
" The Star-spangled Banner " with tears in their eyes ; and
as the last words of the good old song rang out over the
mountain-top, Philip and Bromley discharged their car-
bines, and all three cheered lustily for the old flag and
the new name.
This was to be their last military ceremony, and having
no further use for their swords, they arranged them with
belts and scabbards into a handsome decoration against
the chimneypiece, and crossed above them the three red-
and-white flags of the station. The Revised Army Regu-
86 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
lations and Philip's prayer-book stood on the mantelpiece
alongside the spy-glass in its leathern case. The few
articles of extra clothing hung in a line on the wall just
opposite to the three bunks, whose under layer of pine
boughs gave an aromatic perfume to the room.
After the ceremony of naming the plateau, and having
fixed the trophies to their satisfaction, the three exiles
took down their sky-blue overcoats from the line, for the
November air was nipping cold, and set out with the two
carbines and an empty sack to keep Thanksgiving in the
good old country way. They were still rather sad after
what had happened in the morning ; but by the time they
were back all the gloom had worn off, for they brought
with them two rabbits and a bag of chestnuts, and appe-
tites shai-pened by exercise in the keen air.
Philip made the stew, and Bromley fried two chickens
of their own raising, one after the other, on a half-canteen,
and the potatoes, left to themselves, burst their jackets in
the ashes with impatience to be eaten. Each man made
his own coffee in his own blackened tin cup, and drank it
with a keener relish because it was near the last of their
While they were eating and drinking within, the sky
without had become thick with clouds blown up on the
east wind, so that when they looked out at the door they
saw Tumbler, the bear, who also had been stuffing himself
with acorns, and ants which he had pawed out of a rotten
log, rolling home for shelter.
There was yet time before the storm broke, and away
CHKISTEXING THE TEKKIiOliV.
THE PLATEAU EECEIVES A NAME 89
they went up the hill as happy as lords, to load themselves
with dead chestnut limbs and a few resinous sticks of fat
pine ; and when night came, and with it the rain, there was
a warm fire in the new chimney, and a stick of lightwood
thrust behind the backlog lighted the interior of the house
with a good forty-adamantine-candle power. Tumbler lay
rolled up in his favorite corner, blinking his small eyes at
the unusual light, and from time to time he passed his
furry paw over his sharp nose and gave forth a low grunt
of satisfaction. Philip sat against the chimney opposite
Tumbler, stirring chestnuts in the ashes with a ramrod,
while Bromley put away the last of the supper things, and
Lieutenant Coleman gazed out of the open window into
the slanting rain, which beat a merry tattoo on the shin-
gles, and tossed at intervals a sturdy drop on the hissing
It was certainly not the cheerful interior, beaming with
light and heat, that turned Lieutenant Coleman's thoughts
back to the dark cloud of disasters which had overwhelmed
the National arms ; it might have been the dismal outlook
from the square window into the darkness and the storm.
At all events, he turned abruptly about as if a new idea
had struck him.
" George, this sudden success of the Johnnies has not
been gained without important outside aid. The French
in Mexico may have decided at last to cross the border,
and if they did it was in concert with the naval demon-
strations of more than one European power against the
90 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
" That is just what I have been thinking, Fred/' said
Bromley, " and England is sure to be at the bottom of it.
After the sinking of the ' Alabama ' there was no time to
be lost, and when Grant's army began to fall back from
Richmond, that hostile government had the excuse it had
long been waiting for, and recognized the Confederacy at
"I am of the opinion," replied Lieutenant Coleman,
thoughtfully, *' that the recognition of the European pow-
ers came before the withdrawal from Richmond, because
Grant would never have yielded that position except in
obedience to orders from Washington. Now would he ? "
" No, he would n't," said Bromley.
"Of coui'se not," said Philip. "It all began with the
death of Uncle BUly."
" So it did," said Bromley ; " and after Sherman's army
was out of the way Johnston probably joined his forces
with Hood, defeated Thomas, and retook Chattanooga.
He could hardly have accomplished all that by August 20,
but his cavalry must have struck our line of stations on
" Exactly so, George," Lieutenant Coleman responded.
"If they had captured the tenth station alone, with
Captain Swann, the line would have been useless and no
further messages could have reached us. If Swann had
found the hne broken behind him, he would certainly have
flagged that news to me without delay."
"Well, what 's the odds?" said Philip, drawing his
chestnuts out upon the hearthstone. "The jig was up,
THE PLATEAU RECEIVES A NAME 91
and Captain Swann knew it. If they had taken any sta-
tion this side of the tenth mountain, the effect to us would
have been the same."
" So it would," said Lieutenant Coleman, sadly, turning
again to look out into the storm— ''so it would,"
" It is a blessing that we are ignorant of some things
that have happened," said Bromley, who was disposed to
look on the dark side. " It would have been just like Lee's
impudence, after Washington was garrisoned, to cut loose
with his army, and live on the country through Maryland,
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey until he reached his foreign
allies in the port of New York. If he has done that, for
instance, I should rather not know it. WeU," continued
Bromley, ''there is one comfort: if the Rebs conquer
everything, they will defeat their own purpose and re-
establish the Union they sought to destroy."
"Yes," said Lieutenant Coleman, "but it would be a
Union with slavery everywhere. They can turn the North-
ern States back into Territories, and carry slavery into
" Bah ! " exclaimed Philip. " To think of the Territory
of Ohio ! The Territory of Pennsylvania ! The Territory
of New York ! "
" Dear me ! " said Lieutenant Coleman ; " it is aU too hu-
miliating to think of. After aU, what a miserable figure
Abraham Lincoln will cut in history ! Think of it ! His
Emancipation Proclamation is not worth the paper it was
wi'itten on ! "
" Ten thousand furies ! " cried Bromley, striding across
92 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the earthen floor and kicking the logs until the fire danced
in the chimney ; " we made a wise choice when we deter-
mined to stay on this mountain."
" But we did make a mistake when we named the pla-
teau Lincoln Territory," cried Philip.
" That 's so," said Bromley and Lieutenant Coleman,
with one voice.
" It 's not too late yet," shouted Bromley. " Sherman !
Sherman was the only general worthy the name."
And they all cried " Sherman ! Sherman ! " and by
common consent, after all the ceremony of the morning,
the name of the plateau was changed to Sherman Ter-
|HE ledge up which the ladders led from the
direction of the gorge, it will be remembered,
formed the northern support of the plateau.
The unscalable cliff terminated its extent to
the south; and of the two longer sides the one on the
west overlooked Whiteside Cove, and that on the east
Cashiers valley. The view into the Cove over the boulder
side of the mountain, after the trees which grew on the
edge were reached, was broad and unobstructed. On the
eastern side there was but one gap in the timber which
covered the mountain-side from the end of the ledge to
the cliff, through which a perfect view could be had of the
settlement in the valley. Before Andy Zachary left the
plateau. Lieutenant Coleman had sketched a rude plot of
the mountains overlooking the valley, and at the guide's
dictation had written down the name of each peak. Yellow
Mountain was the nearest, and showed a dark, timbered
ridge beyond the gorge. At the northern end of the valley
rose the mass of Sheep Cliff, and joined to it were the lesser
94 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
ridges of Big and Little Terrapin. Hog's Back showed its
blue top ten miles away to the east, beyond the nearer
wooded ridges that shut in the vaUey on that side, down
to Rock Mountain and Chimney Top, which reared their
sharp peaks to the right of the plateau. Directly below
this eastern outlook lay the one white road which ran
through the valley, the same road along which the caval-
cade had picked its silent way in the small hours of the
morning, five months before, when they had come, full of
hope, to estabhsh the station.
Our exiles up to this time had been so busy with their
preparations for winter that they had given but little at-
tention to their neighbors below. They had noticed on
frosty mornings columns of white smoke rising straight
into the air from half a dozen cabins in the vaUey, most
of which had been hidden from view by the thick foliage
during the summer months. Now that the November
winds had stripped the trees of their leaves, two cabins
appeared in the direction of Sheep Cliff, standing side by
side among the bare oaks on a knoll which sloped gently
to the road. The two seemed to be precisely alike, with
rude verandas in front, and at no great distance back of
these, in an open clearing, surrounded with orchards and
stacks, was a long house with a heavy stone chimney at
each end. Scattered to the right of the plateau were sev-
eral cabins, and close on the road a square brown building
which looked to be a store. Just below this point of rocks
where the three solders looked down on the valley stood
the largest house in the settlement, old and rambling in
THE PRISONERS 95
construction, with lurching chimneys and roofs extending
to left and rear. The woodpile was at the opposite side
of the road, and comfortable log barns stood on the hill-
side above. All these details were to be seen with the
naked eye, but the powerful telescope of the station re-
vealed much more, even showing the faces and forms of
the people who lived in the cabins.
As the three exiles were lounging together one after-
noon at this very point of rocks, studying their neighbors
through the telescope as if they had been the inhabitants
of another planet, Philip broke the silence with quite an
original speech— one only he could make.
'' See here, fellows," he said with that new familiarity
they had begun to show toward each other, "as we are
likely to take considerable interest in these people down
below, it will be mighty inconvenient when we talk about
them to say, ' The man in the big house across the road
from the log barn did this,' or ' The man in the farthest
twin cabin did that,' or ' The old chap in the long house
flanked by orchards and stacks did something else ' ; so I
say, let 's give them family names."
The others laughingly admitted that the idea was not
a bad one, and Bromley suggested at random the names
Smith, Jones, and Brown.
" As good as any others," said Philip.
" Very well," said Bromley, " then we will call this first
" No, you don't," cried Philip, with much spirit. " I 've
taken a prejudice against that old fellow, because he sits
96 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
on the woodpile and smokes his pipe every afternoon
while his wife does the milking. Smith is too respectable
a name for him."
" I did n't know," said Coleman, laughing, " that there
was any particular virtue in the name of Smith."
" I did n't say there was," said Philip, "but if this first
old loafer should turn out half as bad as I fear he will, the
name would be a slur on too many families, you know.
Now, if it 's all the same to you, gentlemen, we will begin
at the other end and call the man of the orchard ' Smith.'
'Jones' naturally falls to the owner of the second twin
cabin, and this fellow below becomes— say, 'Shifless,'
whether he likes it or not."
As no one of the three had ever heard of any one of the
name of Shifless, Philip's arrangement was agreed to, and
from time to time they settled other names on the dwellers
in every cabin in sight, and one column of smoke which
rose from behind an intervening ridge was spoken of as
On the morning of December 23 in that first year on the
mountain, the three soldiers were thrown into a great state
of excitement by a remarkable discovery. Coleman and
Bromley were clearing off the snow from a stack of pea-
vines, preparatory to beating them out on the floor of the
house, when Philip came running toward them, holding
up the telescope and beckoning them to meet him. He
said he had seen three United States officers at the long
cabin under Sheep Cliff, which was known as Smith's.
The others needed no urging to follow Philip. Indeed,
THE PRISONERS 97
they ran so rapidly over the frozen ground in the rare
upper air that they scarcely had breath for speaking when
they arrived on the point of rocks. Philip directed the
glass on the house again, and then, with a cry of delight,
he passed it to Coleman.
" There they are ! There they are ! See ? By the end
of the house ! "
As soon as the lieutenant had adjusted the powerful
glass to his eye, he had the men before him almost as dis-
tinctly as if they had been standing within hailing dis-
tance. There was no mistaking the evidence that two of
them were officers of what the three soldiers considered
the beaten and disbanded army, while, although the third
was in citizen's dress, it was unlike the dress of the
" Heaven help them ! " exclaimed Lieutenant Coleman,
as he gazed in amazement on the scene at the end of the
long house. " How ragged they are ! They must have
been hunted through the woods like wild animals. Both
of the two in uniform wear jackets of the mounted service,
and — stop— as sure as you are born, the taUer of the two
is a lieutenant of artillery. He has but one shoulder-strap
left, and that has too dark a ground for either cavalry or
infantry. They may be from the staff. There is some-
thing about their uniforms, in spite of rags and dirt, that
makes me think so. The other carries a roll of blankets
over his shoulder— he must be a soldier ; and they have
just come in, too, for their haversacks are mighty lean."
It looked as if the poor fellows had found friends at
98 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
last ; for, while they stood talking with two women at the
end of the house, Smith himself, who was a lank moun-
taineer with a red beard, was lounging by the gate with
his gun on his shoulder, as if watching against surprise
from the road. Bromley, who had been patiently waiting,
now took the glass.
" By Jove ! " he cried, " there are four girls there now,
and the short officer is going into the house. You are
right, Fred ; the old man is on guard, with a sharp eye in
his head, too. They are all going into the house now, by
Neighbor Smith's advice, I fancy. I '11 tell you who they
are, Fred. They are escaped prisoners from Charleston.
They must have been hiding in the woods and swamps
for months. If that is the condition of the officers of the
United States that were, a thousand times better is our
lot on this free mountain-top." And returning the glass,
Bromley ventured some bitter reflections on the Congress
and the high officials who had conducted the war to a dis-
'' We must not lose sight of these unhappy men while
they remain in the valley," said Coleman ; and, it then
being ten o'clock, he settled himself behind the glass, and
gave his watch to Bromley, who was to relieve him at twelve.
Philip was too much excited by the presence of the
fugitive officers to leave the rocks of his own accord ; but
Coleman presently sent him to the house for a loaded
carbine, which was laid by in a dry niche of granite, to be
fired as a signal to the others in case of any movement of
importance at the cabin below. For the rest of the morn-
THE PRISONERS 99
ing Smith with his gun kept his post at the gate, and the
ofl&cers were never once seen outside the cabin. Judging
by the volume of smoke from both chimneys, it would
appear that they were faring pretty well inside.
Shortly before noon one of the girls ran through the
bare woods to the two cottages overlooking the road, and
brought back Jones, who relieved Smith at the gate. It
was evident that Jones was friendly to the officers, for
when he was relieved in turn he went into the house, and
it was a long time before he came out.
Whoever was on watch was seldom alone, so keen was
the interest of the exiles in the movements of their feUow-
soldiers, and in any other happening which might concern
them. According to Philip, who took the post of obser-
vation at four o'clock, old Shifless bossed the milking from
the woodpile as usual. It was plain that he had not been
taken into the confidence of the Smiths or the Joneses, and
this fact was laid up against him.
After supper all three gathered on the rocky lookout,
and remained observing the lights at the cabin of the
Smiths long after it was too dark to use the telescope.
There were no signs of departure below, and after they
returned to the house, chilled by exposure and inaction,
they sat until a late hour by the warm fire, discussing the
events of the day and laying plans for the morrow.
At the first indication of dawn Bromley dressed and set
out for the rocks, while his comrades turned over for an-
other nap, which was taken with one eye open, so excited
were they in view of what might happen during the day.
100 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
In their drowsy, half -wakeful state it seemed to Coleman and
Philip as if no time at aU had passed since the departure
of Bromley when they were startled by the echoing report
of the carbine. Hurrying on their clothing, they scam-
pered across the hard snow to the rocks, where they found
Bromley with the telescope fixed on the house of Shifless.
"There the old rogue is," said Bromley, handing the
spy-glass to Coleman, " leading his mule out of the stable.
He must have got some information during the night, for,
after going to the stable with a lantern, he climbed up
on to that ridge beyond and looked over at Smith's clear-
ing as if he wanted to satisfy himself that all was quiet
there. I suspected he was up to some deviltry as soon as
I got out here, for I saw a light in the house, showing first
from one window and then from another. Drat his pic-
ture ! " Bromley continued. " As soon as he began cMmb-
ing the hill I fired the alarm."
"I never knew him to turn out before eight o'clock,"
" He certainly means mischief," said Coleman, '' for he
is saddling the mule. Now he has blown out the lantern
and hung it on the bar-post. Now he is mounting, the
treacherous old villain! Confound him! there he goes
trotting down the road toward the store."
Philip and Bromley took a look at the man, hurrying
along in the gray of the morning before another soul was
awake in the settlement, and then they saw him turn on
to the road which would lead him around the mountain
into the Cove.
THE PRISONERS 101
" If I were only down in his neighborhood now," said
Coleman, following Shifless with the telescope, "with a
good rifle, I 'd tumble him off that mule. I should be
serving my country."
"What country?" sneered Bromley.
To this Coleman made no reply, and the three walked
slowly across the mountain to the boulder side. They had
not long to wait there before the man on the mule appeared
on the road below, and they followed him with scowling
eyes until he drew up in front of the Cove post-office, dis-
mounted, and went in.
" Of course," exclaimed Bromley, " the postmaster is a
creature of the Confederacy."
In half an hour the two men trotted away together, and
soon disappeared among the mountains.
Our heroes turned back, certain in their minds that this
stealthy journey of Shifless had been Tindertaken with
hostile intentions toward the three officers who still re-
mained in the cabin under the shadow of Sheep Cliff.
They felt keenly their inability to warn them of the
danger which hung over them, and hoped that during the
day they might see the visitors leaving the valley.
Their anxiety now made it necessary to watch for de-
velopments in the Cove as well as in the valley, and they
scarcely found time to prepare their meals, which they ate
as they moved about. All day the telescope was in transit
from one side of the mountain to the other until there was
a deep path trodden in the snow. From time to time one
or another of the officers was seen near the cabin, and
102 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
even if they had not been seen at all, the presence of Smith
or one of the girls watching at the gate would have been
sufficient evidence that the officers were still there. They
might be waiting for a guide or the cover of night be-
fore going on. The day was unusually cold, and be-
yond the smoke from the chimneys, and here and there
a woman in a doorway, there was no movement in the
Late in the afternoon of this December 24— for it was
Christmas eve, and not a very cheerful one on the moun-
tain — Bromley, who was watching on the Cove side, spied
a body of men at that very point in the road where the
two horsemen had disappeared in the morning. He
shouted so lustily for the telescope that both Philip and
Coleman joined him with all haste.
What they saw through the glass was a straggling
column of mountaineers advancing in single file along the
winding road, their steel rifle-barrels catching the last rays
of the setting sun. There were thirteen men in the party,
of whom about half wore some pai't of a Confederate uni-
form ; but neither Shifless nor the Cove postmaster was
with them. They had scarcely time to pass the glass from
one to another, in their excitement, before the men left the
road and turned up the mountain-side with a stealthy
movement that made it plain they were going into tempo-
A few extracts from Lieutenant Coleman's diary at this
point give a vivid picture of what was happening during
the night on the mountain and about it.
THE PRISONERS 103
" I am writing by the light of the fire in our house on
this Christmas eve, at 10 : 30 o'clock by my watch, power-
less to warn our friends at the cabin of the impending
calamity. Soon after dark, fire appeared on mountain-
side, and it is now burniug brightly, as reported by Philip,
who has just retm-ned to the lookout.
" 12, midnight. Have just come in— fire still visible.
" 12 : 35. Phihp reports that fire has just been extin-
guished on mountain-side. Sparks indicated fire was put
out by beating and scattering the brands. We are all about
to go to Point of Rocks— shall probably be up all night."
It seems that as soon as day began to dawn faintly on
the mountain-tops, and while it was still dark in the
valley, the three soldiers were crouching on the rocks
eagerly awaiting light in the clearing. First the white-
washed walls of the cabin came into view, and then, in the
gray dawn, as they fully expected, they began to distin-
guish motionless figures stationed at regular intervals in
the clearing, and forming an armed cordon about the
house. There was no sign of smoke from the stone chim-
neys, nor any other evidence that the inmates had been
disturbed by the soldiers or had awakened of their own
There was one hope left. The oflacers might have gone
away during the night. They should soon know; and
meanwhile the snowy mountains reared their dark ridges
against the slowly reddening eastern sky, and a great
silence lay on the vaUey.
EST WHICH THE SOLDIERS MAKE A MAP
^HE forbearance of the captors to disturb their
prisoners was puzzling to the three soldiers
huddled together on the point of rocks.
Through the telescope the men could now be
plainly seen, in their rough mountain dress, moving to
and fro on their stations, and apparently keeping under
cover where trees or outhouses were available as a mask.
At one point several men were grouped together behind a
fodder-stack, as if in consultation, and on the road could
be seen one who seemed to be watching impatiently for
some expected arrival.
Holding the telescope soon grew tiresome, and they
passed it from one to another, that no movement in the
gruesome pantomime might escape their observation ; and
the observer for the time being broke the silence at inter-
vals with details of what he saw.
" There ! " cried Philip, at last, " the men are getting
lively behind the fodder-stack. Now the fellow in the
road is waving his hat. Hold on ! There comes a man—
IN WHICH THE SOLDIERS MAKE A MAP 105
two men— on horseback. Now the sentinels are moving
in toward the cabin."
Thus the cordon was drawn close about the house, in
which the inmates stiU showed no signs of life. The
horsemen dismounted and tied their horses to the fence,
and then, with an armed guard, advanced to the door.
Lieutenant Coleman looked at his watch. It was twenty
minutes after seven. At seven twenty-eight the old
mountaineer appeared, and was passed down the line to
the road. Next came the three officers, one after the
other, and they were removed to one side under guard.
Then the four women seemed to be driven out of the house
by the soldiers, and forced along by violence into the road.
Some of the men appeared to be breaking the windows of
the cabin, and others were running out of the open door,
appropriating some objects and ruthlessly destroying
others. For the first time the soldier exiles realized how
far they were removed, by their own will, from a world in
which they had no part. The sufferers were their friends
whom they knew not, and to help whom they had no
power. They were like spirits looking down from a world
above on the passions of mortals— as helpless to interfere
as the motionless rocks.
After a brief consultation the mounted men rode away
to the north, while the prisoners, with their guards, ad-
vanced in the opposite direction and soon disappeared
behind that ridge up which Shifless had climbed to look
over in the gray of the morning of the day before. A
puff of smoke burst from the deserted cabin and rose like
106 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
a tower into the frosty air. Fire gleamed through the
broken windows, and red tongues of flame licked about
the dry logs, and lashed and forked under the eaves and
about the edges of the shingled roof. The reflection from
the flames reddened the snow in the little clearing. The
stacks caught fire. The boughs of the orchard withered
and crisped in the fierce heat.
Now, as if satisfied with their work of destruction, the
men who had remained at the house joined the others be-
hind the ridge, and the armed guards, with their miserable
prisoners, soon reappeared, moving over the snow under
the bare trees. The three soldiers lay out on the rocks
above to watch the poor captives picking their way down
a stony, winding trail, forming one stragghng file between
two flanking columns of mountaineers. Knowing some-
thing of the stoical ways of these people, they could feel
the sUence of that gloomy progress. They even fancied
they could hear the crunching of the snow, the rolling of
displaced stones on the frosty hillside, the crackling of
brittle twigs under foot, and the subdued sobbing of the"
Steadily the procession of ill omen moved along over the
snow under the thin trees, disappearing and reappearing
and dwindling in the distance, untU it was lost behind the
spurs of the mountain called Chimney Top. By this time
the roof of the house had fallen into the burning mass
between the two stone chimneys ; the sun had risen, and
the dense column of smoke cast a writhing shadow against
the snowy face of Sheep Cliff.
■THE FONYLS HUNG ABOUT THE DOOE.'
IN WHICH THE SOLDIEES IVIAKE A MAP 109
When the glass was brought to bear on the house and
road below, it revealed Shifless and the Cove postmaster
riding quietly home on their mules, doubtless well satisfied
with the evil deed their heads had planned.
As the three soldiers turned back in the direction of
their house, Bromley was in a rage, and Philip could no
longer command himself. All three were worn and hag-
gard with loss of sleep, and depressed by the outcome of
the affair in the valley.
In fact, the disheartening effect of the experiences con-
nected with this first Christmas continued to oppress our
exiles well into the next year. If, in the narrow valley on
which they were privileged to look down, three officers of
the old armies had been thus hunted and dragged off be-
fore their eyes, they had reason to believe that fragments
of those armies were receiving similar or worse treatment
wherever they might be found. Time and their daily work
gradually calmed their minds and helped them to forget
the pain of what they had seen. They missed the company
of the bear, too ; for even before this great disturbance of
their tranquillity that amusing companion of their solitude
had burrowed himself away, to consume his own fat, where
not even their telescope could discover him for several
Presently the winter snows became deeper on the
mountain, and they were confined more and more to the
house. The Slow-John was frozen up in the branch, and
the fowls, which could no longer forage for their own liv-
ing, hung about the door for the scraps from the table and
110 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
an occasional handful of corn. They roosted in the cabin
of the old man of the mountain, and now and then, in
return for their keep, laid an egg, which was often frozen
before it was found.
The soft, clean husks of the corn, added to the pine
boughs, made comfortable beds, and the tents spread over
the blankets provided abundant covering. Grreat bunches
of catnip and pennyroyal for tea hung from the rafters,
and even the wild gentian, potent to cure all ailments, was
not forgotten in the winter outfit.
The prayer-book and Army Regulations, which formed
their library, were read and re-read, and discussed until
theology and the art of clothing and feeding an army were
worn threadbare. Phihp, who was blessed with a vivid
imagination and great originality, made up the most mar-
velous ghost-stories and the most heartrending and finally
soul-satisfying romances, which were recited in the even-
ings before the fire, to the huge enjoyment of his compan-
ions. If it was romance, a fat pine-knot thrust between
the logs illumined the interior and searched the farthest
corners and crannies of the room with a flood of light ; and
in case it was a ghost-story, the logs were left to burn low
and fall piecemeal into the red coals before the eyes of the
three figures sitting half revealed in sympathetic obscurity.
One of the most interesting incidents of the first winter
was the construction, by Lieutenant Coleman, of a map of
the "old United States," and the plotting thereon of the
Confederacy as they supposed it to be. When it is re-
membered that the map was drawn entirely from memory,
IN WHICH THE SOLDIERS MAKE A MAP 111
the clear topographical knowledge of the officer was, to say
the least, surprising.
The first reference to the map is found in Lieutenant
Coleman's entry in the diary for the 24th of January,
"As we were sitting before the fire last night, George
introduced a subject which, by common consent, we have
rather avoided any reference to or conversation upon.
This related to the probable boundaries of the new nation
established by the triumphant Confederates. We had no
doubt that the Confederacy embraced all the States which
were slaveholding States at the outbreak of the Rebellion ;
and as they doubtless had made Washington their capital,
it was more than probable that they had added little Dela-
ware to Maryland on their northern border. We assumed
that so long as there were two governments in the old
territory, the Ohio River would be accepted as a natural
boundary as far as to the Mississippi; but we were of
widely different opinions as to the line of separation
" George, who is inclined to the darker view, is of the
opinion that the Southern republic, if it be a republic at
all, would certainly demand an opening to the Pacific
Ocean, and therefore must embrace a part, if not the
whole, of California.
"February 16. We have been confined to the house
two days by a driving snow-storm, and the territorial
extent of the Confederacy has come up again, not, how-
112 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
ever, for the first time since the discussion on the 23d of
January. As we still have one stormy month before the
opening of spring, I have determined to enter upon the
construction of a map which shall lay down the probable
boundaries of the two nations. When George and I are
unable to agree, the point in dispute will be argued before
Philip, and settled by the votes of the three."
On February 17, then, this map was begun on the inner
side of one of the rubber ponchos after buttoning down
and gluing with pitch the opening in the center. It was
stretched on a frame, and thus provided a clean white
canvas five feet square on which to draw the map.
If Lieutenant Coleman and his companions had known
that General Sherman, after whom they had named their
island in the sky and whom they moui-ned as dead, was
that very morning marching into the city of Columbia, the
capital of South Carolina, with aU his bands playing and
flags flying, the map would never have been made, and the
life on the mountain would have come to a sudden end.
Fortunately for the continuance of this history, they were
ignorant of that fact, and Lieutenant Coleman on this very
day began plotting his map with charcoal. After going
over the coasts and watercourses and estabhshing the
boundaries of States, and that greatest and most difficult
of all boundaries, the one between " the two countries," he
would blow off the charcoal and complete the details with
ink. Of this necessary fluid there was a canteen fuU,
which had been made in the fall from oak-gaUs (lumps or
EN WHICH THE SOLDIEES MAKE A MAP 113
balls produced on the oak-leaves by tiny insects) and the
purple pokeberries which had been gathered from the field
below the ledge. The oak-leaves had been steeped in
warm water, and this mixture, together with the berries,
had been strained through a cloth and bottled up in the
While at West Point, Cadet Coleman, of the class of '63,
had devoted himself to mapping, and he believed he was
tolerably familiar with his subject until, at the very out-
set, difficulties began to arise. He found that his know-
ledge about the Northwestern Territories was shaky, and
it was difficult to convince Bromley that Arkansas was not
west of Kansas.
They finally gave little Delaware to the Confederacy,
accepting the bay and river as a natural geographical
separation. Thence they followed the southern boundary
of Pennsylvania to the Ohio River, the Ohio and Missis-
sippi to the southern boundary of Iowa, and thence west
and south on the northern and western frontiers of Mis-
souri. The Indian Territory became the first point of
Under date of March 1, 1865, Lieutenant Coleman says :
"With the aid of Philip, I pressed the boundary line
south to the Red River. We all conceded Texas to the
Confederacy. I was disposed to establish the extreme
western boundary of the Confederacy as identical with the
western frontier of Texas. George allowed this so far
as the Rio Grande formed a natural boundary along the
114 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
frontier of Mexico, but stoutly insisted that the successful
Southerners would never consent to a settlement which
did not extend their borders to the Pacific Ocean. To
this claim on the part of the South he contended that the
imbecility of Congress and the timidity of Northern leaders
would offer little or no opposition. He held that if they
took part of Cahf ornia, they might as well take the whole ;
and in either case they would take New Mexico and Ari-
zona as the natural connection with their Pacific territory.
"I contended that California had never been a slave
State, and would never consent to such an arrangement.
To this George replied that California was without troops,
and that her wishes would not be a factor in the solution
of the problem ; that the South, flushed with victory, could
not be logically expected to content itself with less ; that
it would be a matter to be settled between the two govern-
ments, and that, for his part, he saw no reason to believe
that the North, in view of its blunders civil and its fail-
ures military, would have the power or the courage to
prevent such seizure by the enemy. Philip leaned to this "
view, and was even willing to throw in Utah for senti-
Bromley showed great skill and cleverness in advocat-
ing his peculiar views. When he had a point to gain,
with the natural cunning of a legal mind, he took care to
begin his argument by claiming much more than he ex-
pected to establish. Thus, not content with the concession
of California and the southern tier of Territories leading
' PHILIP MADE UP THE MOST MARVELOUS STORIES, WHICH WERE RECITED
BEFORE THE FIRE."
IN WHICH THE SOLDIEES MAKE A MAP 117
thereto, he called the attention of the others to the great
Rocky Mountain range, offering itself, from the north-
western extremity of Texas to the British possessions, as
a natural geographical wall between nations. He admitted
that the Western men had been the bone and sinew of the
late fruitless struggle ; but they were the hardy soldiers of
Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Kansas, still far to the east
of the great mountain-range, with vast uncivilized Terri-
To this view Lieutenant Coleman opposed the jealousy
of the great aUy of the South as not likely to favor an
unequal partition ; he said that England would certainly
not lend her aid to bringing the more aggressive of the
two nations up to her own colonial borders. Besides, he
contended, the South was without a navy, and at the out-
set could never defend such a great addition to her already
vastly superior coast-line.
This long argument resulted in a compromise, and by
the decision of Philip, California, Arizona, and New Mexico
were given to the Confederacy, and half the Pacific coast
was saved to the old government.
Bromley's matter-of-fact character had no sentimental
side. He was a worker, and no dreamer. He threw him-
self with aU the weight of his convictions and the force of
his weU-trained mind into the discussion of the extent of
the Confederate victory; but the moment the boundary
was settled he seemed to forget the existence of the map
and to lose himself in the next piece of work.
After completing the outlines of the map in ink. Lieu-
118 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEKS
tenant Coleman began laying a tone of lines over the whole
Confederacy. As the work progressed, the tkree soldiers
watched the new power creeping like an ominous shadow
over the map. The one break in the expanse of gloom
was the white star at the northwestern corner of North
Carohna, which marked the location of Sherman Territory.
When the map was finished and hung on the logs, the
Confederacy looked like nothing so much as a huge dragon
crouching on the GuK of Mexico, with the neck and head
elevated along the Pacific and the tail brushing Cuba.
Although they accepted the map without further dis-
cussion, its white face, looking down on them from the
waU as they sat about the evening fire, provoked many a
talk about affairs in the world below. The time for the
election of a new President had passed since they had been
on the mountain. After the complete and pitiful collapse
of Lincoln's administration, they had no doubt that Mc-
Clellan had been elected. Philip thought the new capital
should be located at Piqua, Ohio (which was where his
uncle lived), as it was near the center of population !
But Bromley favored the city of Cleveland. Ohio, he
pointed out, extended entirely across the Union, and, as
the State which linked the two parts together, it would
need to be strongly guarded, and the capital with its troops
and fortifications would strengthen that weak link in the
chain. Cincinnati was too close to the enemy's territory
to be thought of as a capital.
Shortly before undertaking the map. Lieutenant Cole-
man had the good fortune to bring down a large gray
120 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
eagle, which, although soaring high above the valleys,
was but just skimming the mountain-top. This was a
fortunate event, because the very last steel pen had become
very worn and corroded. Lieutenant Coleman had been
longing above all things for quills, and now that he wrote
again with an easy and flowing hand, he seems to have
forgotten that his supply of paper was limited. In the
controversy over the map the entries are of unusual length,
and then suddenly they become brief and cramped, and
are written in so small a hand that there can be no doubt
the writer took sudden alarm on discovering how few blank
pages were left in the book.
Since Christmas the telescope had rarely been taken
from its place on the chimney, and if they looked over into
the Cove or the valley without it, those snow-covered re-
gions below were far-off countries, where the houses showed
only as rounded forms, and the human ants who lived in
them were scarcely visible.
HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF
[T last the long winter came to an end. By the
middle of March the warm sun and soft south
winds began to thaw the February snows. On
such a day, when the afternoon sun beat with
unusual warmth on the northern face of the mountain, the
three soldiers stood together in front of the house, noting
everywhere the joyful signs of the approach of spring.
The snow, where it lay thickest in the hoUows of the
plateau, was soft and porous and grimy with dirt. There
were bare spaces here and there on the ground, and where
a stick or a stone showed through the thin crust the snow
had retired around it as if it gave out a heat of its own.
The melting icicles pendent from the eaves glittered in the
sun and dripped into the channels alongside the walls.
They had a great longing to see the grass and the leaves
again and welcome the early birds of spring. As they
looked about on these hopeful signs in the midst of the
great stillness to which they had become used, a sudden
deafening crash rang in their startled ears. The sound was
122 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
like the explosion of a mine or the dull roar of a siege-
mortar at a little distance away. It came from the Cove
to the north, and the first crash was followed by lesser
reports, and each sound was echoed back from the moun-
The fii'st thought of the three soldiers was of the open-
ing of a battle. Their first fear was that a great mass of
earth and rock had fallen from the edge of the plateau to
the base of the mountain. They made their way cautiously
in the direction of the sound, almost distrusting the ground
under their feet. The gnarled chestnuts on the edge of
the cliff were as firmly rooted as ever. When they had
advanced to where PhUip's sharp eyes caught the first view
of the postmaster's cabin through the twisted tree-trunks,
he remembered the words of Andy, the guide, on the night
when they had waited for the moon to go down. He
quickly caught the arms of his companions.
"It 's the avalanche," he said— "the icicles and the ice
falling into the Cove from the face of the great boulder."
They could see tiny figures standing about the cabin,
and they shrank back lest they, too, might be seen by the
people, who were evidently gazing with all their eyes at
the top of the mountain.
Just then there was another deafening crash, and at
intervals all day long they heard the falling of the ice.
" They are the opening guns of spring," said Lieutenant
Coleman ; and now that they knew what the sound was,
they listened eagerly for each report.
Late on that very afternoon, as they sat together out-
HOW THE BEAE DISGRACED HIMSELF 123
side the house, they saw Tumbler, the bear, shambHng
down the hillside in front of the house, and they had no
doubt he had been awakened from his winter's nap by the
roar of the avalanche. He was thin of flesh and ragged
of fur, and so weak on his clumsy legs that he sat down
at short intervals to rest. He made his way first to the
branch, where he refreshed himself with a drink, and then
came on with renewed vigor toward the house. He was
such a very disreputable-looking bear, and had been gone
so long, and must be so dangerously hungry, that the men
stood up doubtfully at his approach until they saw a weak
movement of his stumpy tail and the mild look in his
brown eyes as he seated himself on the chips and lolled
out his red tongue.
Philip brought him a handful of roast potatoes, which
he devoured with a relish, and then stood up so hand-
somely to ask for more that they rolled him raw ones
until his hunger was satisfied, after which he waddled
through the open door, and lay down for another nap in
his old place by the fire, just as if he had gone out but
yesterday, which was probably just what he thought he
By this time the last page of the station journal had
been used, and Lieutenant Coleman had added to it the
five fly-leaves of the precious Blue Book, which he had cut
out neatly with his knife. Paper was so scarce at last that
on this March 16, which was the day the bear woke up, the
circumstance of the avalanche alone was recorded, and
that was entered after the date in the most wonderfully
124 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
small and cramped letters you can imagine. Now, Philip
was of the opinion that the return of the bear was of quite
as much importance as the falling of the ice. It happened
that he had in his breast pocket a letter which had been
written to him by his uncle. It was postmarked, " Piqua,
Ohio," and addressed, "Philip Welton, Co. C, 2d Ohio
Infy., Camp near Resaca, Ga."' Philip had been looking
over Coleman's shoulder as he made the cramped entry in
" Now look here," said he, taking up the quiU as it was
laid down ; " if you don't choose to make a record of the
bear, I wiU." So taking from his pocket the letter, he
wrote across the top of the envelop :
"Whiteside Mountain, March 16, 1865.
" Tumbler, the bear, woke up to-day.
"(Signed) Philip Welton,
"Frederick Henry Coleman."
" Well," said Coleman, " what are you going to do with
that ? Drop it over into the Cove ? "
" Not a bit of it," said Philip. " I am just going to keep
the record out of respect to the bear " ; and with that, as
it happened, he put the envelop back in one pocket and the
letter in another. But a few weeks later, when the snow
had quite gone and the buds were beginning to swell on
the trees, Philip was chopping on the hill where the
boulder side of the mountain joined the cliff above the
HOW THE BEAE DISGEACED HIMSELF 125
spring ; and as he grew warm witli his work he cast off his
cavalry jacket, and it happened in some way that the en-
velop on which he had written fell out into the grass.
Philip did not notice this loss at the time, and it was a
week before he missed the envelop. He kept his loss to
himself at first, but as he became alarmed lest it should
blow over into the Cove and disclose their hiding-place, he
confessed to Lieutenant Coleman what had happened.
The three soldiers searched everywhere for this danger-
ous paper, except in the snug place under the tuft of grass
where it lay. It was suspected that Philip was repenting
of the agreement he had made to remain on the mountain,
and both Coleman and Bromley lectured him roundly for
his carelessness. While Philip was still chafing under the
suspicions of his comrades, all the more that he was con-
scious of his perfect loyalty to the old flag and to the com-
pact they had made together for its sake, the bear was
growing stronger every day and more mischievous.
Although he had the whole plateau to roam over, nothing
seemed to please Tumbler so much as to nose about and
dig into the grave of the old man of the mountain. He
was such a wicked bear that the more they kicked and
cuffed him away, the more stubbornly he came back to his
unholy work ; and then it appeared that the light soil of
the mound had been taken possession of by a colony of
ants. It was a temptation such as no hungry bear could
resist, and the sacrilege was so offensive to the three
soldiers that they resolved to remove the last remnant of
the ant-hill and fill it in with clay in which no insect could
126 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
live. It was after supper when they came to this resolu-
tion, and they fell to work at once with the wooden spade
and a piece of tent-cloth, in which Phihp carried the dirt
a stone's-throw away and piled it into a new mound. The
bear seemed to think this was all for his benefit, and while
the work went merrily on he rooted into the new heap and
wagged his stumpy tail with every evidence of gratitude
It was a sufficiently disagreeable task for Coleman and
Bromley, whose legs and bodies were bitten by the ants
until they danced with pain. At the same time the little
pests went up Philip's sleeves and came out on his neck.
Bad as the business was, they set their teeth and kept at
work, determined to finish it now they had begun. Of
course the colony was mostly near the surface of the
ground ; but when they had gone down three feet into the
sandy soil there were still ants burrowing about.
Now, Bromley was a man of great resolution and per-
severance, and although it was growing dark he had no
thought of stopping work ; so he called for a pine torch,
which Coleman held on the bank above. Wlien the earth
gave way, the oak slab with the peculiar inscription, " One
who wishes to be forgotten," was tenderly removed and
leaned against the hut, to be reverently reset the next day.
Annoying as the ants were, the soldiers continued their
work with that feeling of awe which always attends the
disturbing of a grave; and as they dug they spoke with
charity and tenderness of the old man of the mountain.
It made them think of the time when they themselves
HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 127
would be laid to rest in the same soil ; and if they breathed
any inward prayer, it was that their remains might sleep
undisturbed. Although they were young, and death
seemed a long way off, the thought came to them of the
last survivor, and how lonely he would be, and how, when
he should die, there would be no one left to bury his poor
body in the ground.
" Whatever happens," said Philip, " I don't want to be
The pine torch flared and smoked in the cool night wind,
and lighted the solemn faces of the three soldiers as well
as the hole in the earth, where Bromley stiU stood to his
middle. There was yet a little loose earth to be thrown
out before they left the work for the night, and Philip had
brought some sticks of wood to lay over the grave lest in
the morning the bear should begin to dig where they had
left off. He had, in fact, come up and seated himself in
the circle of light, and was looking on with great interest
at their proceedings.
" I declare," said Bromley, just then, straightening him-
self, " I have gone too far already. My spade struck on
the coffin— that is, I think it did. Perhaps I had better
see what condition it is in. What do you think, Fred ? "
" No," said Philip ; " cover it up."
"It will be as well," said Lieutenant Coleman, "now
that we have the opportunity, to see that everything is all
right. I can't help feeling that the old man's remains are
in our care."
" Hold the light nearer, then," said Bromley, as he got
128 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
down on his knees and commenced to paw away the loose
earth with his hands.
Philip was silent, and, soldier though he was, his face
blanched in the neighborhood of one poor coffin.
Both the men outside were staring intently into the open
grave. The torch-light feU broadly on Bromley's back,
and cast a black shadow from his bent body into the space
below, where his hands were at work.
" WeU, this is queer ! " said he, straightening his back
and showing a sui-prised face to the light. " I 've struck
the chime of a cask."
" No ! " cried Coleman and Philip together.
" Yes, I have," said Bromley. " Hand me the spade."
Now the work of digging was begun in good earnest,
and, I am afraid, with less awe than before of what lay
below. Light as the soil was, the opening had to be en-
larged, and it was hard upon midnight when the small
beer-keg was free enough to be moved from its resting-
place. "With the first joggle Bromley gave it, there was a
sound of chinking like coin.
" Do you hear that ? " exclaimed Bromley. " That 's not
the sound of bones."
" It 's money ! " cried Philip.
Lieutenant Coleman said nothing, but jumping down to
the aid of Bromley, they lifted it out on the grass, where
it rolled gently down a little slope, chink-a-ty-chink,
" Bring the ax ! "
" No ; let 's roll it into the house ! "
HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 129
" It 's money ! "
'' It 's nails ! "
" Bring it in to the fire," said Lieutenant Coleman, going
ahead with the torch. So they rolled the tough old cask,
chink-a-ty-chink, around the cabin and up to the house,
into the open door and across the earthen floor, and set it
on end on the stone hearth. They were reeking with per-
spiration. Coleman threw the torch upon the smoldering
logs, and by the time Bromley had the ax there was a
ruddy light through the room.
" Stand back," he cried as he swung the ax aloft.
Three times the ax rang on the head of the cask, the
firelight glittering in the eyes of the soldiers, before the
strong head gave way on one side, and three golden guineas
bounced out on to the hearth. Bromley dropped the ax,
and then all three, without deigning to notice the gold
pieces upon the floor, thrust their hands deep down into
the shining mass of gold coin.
All hustled and pushed one another at the opening.
Philip was on the point of striking out right and left in
sheer excitement ; and in their scramble the cask was over-
turned so that the yellow pieces poured out upon the
floor and the hearth, and some flopped into the fire, while
others roUed here and there into the dark corners of the
room. The golden guineas which first appeared were now
covered with gold double-eagles, and there were a few sil-
ver coins in the bottom of the cask.
The three soldiers hugged one another with delight.
" We are rich ! " cried Philip.
130 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
"Let 's count our treasure," said Coleman. "The
double-eagles first— fifty to a thousand."
Forgotten was the old man of the mountain, forgotten
were their weariness and the lateness of the hour, as they
eagerly fell a-counting.
They piled the shining yellow columns on the mantel-
piece ; and when that was full, without stopping to count
the thousands, they began bunches of piles on the hard
They could hardly believe that such a treasure had fallen
to their possession.
In their greedy delight they utterly forgot the old flag
of the thirty-five stai's, and the total defeat of the Union
armies, as they toiled and counted.
Philip was the first to yield to the demands of tired
nature. With his hands full of gold, he sank down on his
bunk and fell asleep. Lieutenant Coleman was the next ;
and as the cock began to crow at earliest dawn, Bromley
bolted the door for the first time since the house had been
built, and crept exhausted into his blankets.
The treasure was found, as shown by the diary, on
Friday, April 14, in the year 1865, on the very night of
the murder of the good President whom the three soldiers
believed to be living somewhere, a monument of failure
The entry was in a few brief words, and by the Sunday
which followed. Lieutenant Coleman would not have ex-
changed the four blank leaves of the diary for the whole
treasure they had dug up. After the first excitement
'THE CASK WAS OVEKTUKNED SO THAT THE YELLOW PIECES POUKED OUT
UPON THE FLOOR."
HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 133
of their discovery they began to realize that the yellow
stamped pieces were of no value except as a medium of
exchange, and that, as there was nothing on the mountain
for which to exchange them, they were of no value at all.
If they had found a saucepan or a sack of coffee in the
cask, they would have had some reason to rejoice.
So it fell out that within a week's time the gold was
looked upon as so much lumber, and the cask which held
it was kicked into a dark corner, neglected and despised.
Some of the coins were even trodden under foot, and
others lay among the chips at the door.
On the evening of the second Sunday after the discov-
ery of the gold, they sat together outside the door of the
house, and tried to think of some likely thing the cask
might have held more useless than the guineas and double-
eagles ; and, hard as they tried, they could name nothing
more worthless. The result was that they turned away to
their beds, feeling poor and dissatisfied, and down on their
Now it happened, as the three soldiers lay asleep in their
bunks that night, and while Tumbler slept too, with his
nose and his hairy paws in the Hght, cool ashes of the fire-
place (for the nights were warm now), there came up a
brisk wind which blew across the mountain from the
southwest. This rising wind went whistling on its way,
tossing the tree-tops, up on the hill above the birches,
whirling the dry leaves across the plateau, scattering them
on the field below the ledge, and even dropping some
stragglers away down into the Cove far below.
134 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
At first this wind only shook the tuft of grass that over-
hung the lost envelop, and then, as it grew stronger,
whirled it from its snug hiding-place, and tumbled it over
and over among the dry chestnut-burs and the old, gray,
If the envelop came to a rest, this wind was never con-
tent to leave its plaything alone for long. When it landed
the little paper against a stump and held it fluttering there
until that particular gust was out of breath, the envelop
fell to the ground of its own weight, only to be picked up
again and tossed on, little by little, always in the same
direction, until at last it lay exposed on the brow of the
hill to a braver and stronger blast, which lifted it high into
the air and sent it sailing over the roof of the house.
This envelop, with the names of the three soldiers and
their hiding-place written out in a fail*, round hand, might
have sailed along on the southwest wind until it fell at the
door of the post-of&ce in the Cove but for the queer way
it had of navigating the air. It would turn over and over
on its way, or shoot up, or dart to one side, or take some
unexpected course ; and so just as it was sailing smoothly
above the house, its sharp edge tui'ned in the wind, and
with a backward dive it struck hard on the rock below
Philip's leach. Just a breath of wind turned it over
and over on the stone, until it fell noiselessly into the
pool of lye.
Now, Lieutenant Coleman chanced to come out first in
the morning ; and when he saw the lost envelop floating on
the dark-brown pool alongside a hen's egg, which had been
HOW THE BEAR DISGRACED HIMSELF 135
placed there to test the strength of the liquid, he was glad
it had blown no farther. The paper had turned very
yellow in the strong potash, and so he fished it out with
a twig, and cai'ried it across to the branch by the Slow-
John, and dipped it into the water. When he picked it
out it was still slimy to the touch, and the letters had
faded a little. He brushed a word with his finger, and the
letters dissolved under his eyes.
He gave a great cry of joy ; for in that instant he saw
the possibiUty of converting into blank paper, for keeping
their records, the five hundred and ninety-four pages of
the Revised Army Regulations of 1863.
HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELP
;F the old man of the mountain was not in his
grave, where was he ? He had certainly not
gone back to the world and left the buried
treasure behind him. If the grave had been
empty, the soldiers might have suspected foul play.
Josiah Woodring, who had been his agent and provider,
had already been five years in Ms own grave at the time
they had arrived on the mountain. As long as they be-
lieved that the bones of the old man were quietly at rest
under the oak slab in the garden spot, the condition of the
hut, neglected and going to decay, was sufficient evidence
that he had died there, and that no one had occupied it for
more than five years before. With almost his last breath
Josiah had announced his death to the doctor from the
settlement; and under such solemn circumstances it was
impossible to believe that he had stated anything but the
truth. He had not mentioned, it is true, the precise time
when the old man died.
After the night when the treasure was found, the three
HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 137
soldiers, to thoroughly satisfy themselves, had cleared
away the earth down to the bed-rock. Indeed, the cask
itself was evidence enough that the bones of the old man
were not below it, for he himself must have buried that.
If Josiah had known of its existence, it would certainly
have traveled down through the settlement in his two-steer
cart, Kke any other honest cask, and neither cattle nor
driver would have ever come back. After taking such a
load to market, Josiah would have established himself in
luxury in his ignorant way, and probably cut a great
splurge in the " low country," with no end of pomp and
The three soldiers studied this problem with much care,
weighing all the evidence for and against. They even hit
upon a plan of determining when the old man came limp-
ing through the settlement of Cashiers behind Josiah's cart,
covered with dust, and staggering under the weight of his
leathern knapsack. They emptied out the little keg of
gold on the earthen floor a second time, and began a
search for the latest date on the coins. Some were re-
markably old and badly worn. A few of the guinea pieces
bore the heads of the old Georges and " Dei gratia Eex,"
and 17— this and 17— that, and some of the figures were
as smooth as the pate, and as blind as the eyes, of the
king on the coin. The newest double-eagles— and there
were quite a number of them — bore the date 1833, so it
must have been in that year or the year following that the
old man without a name had given up the world and be-
come a hermit on the mountain.
138 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
They decided that he must have had his own ideas about
the vanity of riches, and that after doling out his gold, or,
more likely, his small silver pieces, with exceeding stingi-
ness to Josiah for the small services rendered him, when
he saw his end approaching, he had buried the cask of
treasure, and set up the slab above it, trusting to the
superstition with which the mountain people regarded the
desecration of a grave to protect the gold for all time. It
would certainly have protected it from any examination
by the soldiers but for the strange behavior of the bear,
who had no delicate scruples. The old man had probably
told Josiah, with a cunning leer in his eyes, that the empty
grave was a bhnd to deceive any one who might climb to
the top of the mountain, as the hunters had done long be-
fore, and very likely he had given him a great big silver
half-dollar to wink at this little plan. When death did
really come at last to claim its own, it was evident that
Josiah, faithful to the old man's request, had either taken
his remains down the mountain or buried them somewhere
on the plateau without mound or slab to reveal the place,
and, as likely as not, he had found enough small change
in the old miser's pockets to pay him for his trouble.
Thus the mystery of the old man of the mountain was
settled by the three soldiers, after much discussion, and
the cask of gold was trundled back into the dark comer
of the house, where they threw their waste, and such gui-
neas and double-eagles as had joggled out upon the floor
were kicked after it.
Directly after the lost envelop had turned up in the
HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 139
pool of lye, Lieutenant Coleman had made his arrange-
ments for the manufacture of blank paper for the diary.
The Blue Book was his personal property, but before
commencing its destruction he counseled with Bromley,
who, as a man of letters, he felt, under the circumstances,
had an equal interest with himself in the fate of one half
of their common library. Bromley, seated on the bank
alongside the leach, was engaged at the time in making a
birch broom, and as he threw down the bunch of twigs a
shade of disappointment overspread his handsome face.
He said that he had never thoroughly appreciated the
work of the learned board of compilers until his present
exile, and that it contained flights of eloquence and scraps
of poetry— if you read between the lines.
" But, putting all joking aside," said Bromley, " begin
with a single leaf by way of experiment, and let us see
first what will be the effect on the fiber of the paper ; and
then, if everything works well, we will first sacrifice the
index and the extracts from the Acts of that renegade
Congress whose imbecility has blotted a great nation from
the map of the world."
Lieutenant Coleman had more confidence in the result
of the experiment they were about to make than had
Bromley, for the increased length of his entry in the diary
shows that he was no longer economizing paper :
"April 26, 1865. Wednesday. We have cut out ten
leaves of the index of the Blue Book, which we scattered
loosely on the surface of the lye in the cavity of the rock.
140 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
After twenty minutes I removed a leaf which had under-
gone no perceptible change in appearance, and washed it
thoroughly in running water. While so doing I was
pleased to find that with the lightest touch of my fingers
the ink dissolved, leaving underneath only a faint trace of
the letters, which would in no way interfere with my writ-
ing. It required much patience to cleanse the paper of
the shmy deposit of potash.
"Thursday, April 27, 1865. Of the leaves prepared
yesterday, two, which were less carefully washed than the
others, are somewhat yellowed by the potash and show
signs of brittleness.
"April 30. We have continued our paper-making ex-
periments, and find that a longer bath in a weaker solu-
tion of lye has the same effect on the ink, and is less
injurious to the fiber of the paper. Philip has burned a
lot of holes in one of the cracker-boxes, in which we
place the leaves, leaving them to soak in the running
Thus it turned out that the dangerous envelop, by a
freak of the sportive wind, was made to play an important
part in the economy of the exiles, while the cask of gold
stood neglected in the corner, and the summer of 1865
began with no lack of paper on which to record its events.
Both Philip and the bear had been in temporary disgrace,
the one for losing the tell-tale envelop, and the other for
disturbing the sacred quiet of a grave. Both cases of
misbehavior had resulted in important discoveries, but
HOW THE BEAE DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 141
the mishap of Philip had produced such superior benefits
that the bear was fairly distanced in the race. This may
have been the reason that prompted Tumbler to try his
hand, or rather his paw, agam, for he was a much cleverer
bear than you would think to look at his small eyes and
flat skull. At any rate, one hot morning in July he put
his foot in it once more, and very handsomely, too, for the
benefit of his masters.
It was Philip who caught the first view of him well up
on the trunk of the tallest chestnut on the plateau, which,
growing in a sheltered place under the northwest hill,
had not been dwarfed and twisted by the winds like its
fellows higher up. At the moment he was discovered, he
was licking his paw in the most peaceful and contented
way, while the air about his head was thick with a small
cloud of angry bees, darting furiously among the limbs
and thrusting their hot stings into his shaggy coat, seem-
ing to disturb him no more than one small gnat can dis-
turb an ox. The soldiers had been deprived of sweets
since the last of the sugar had been used, in the early
winter, and a supply of honey would just fit the cravings
of their educated taste. Share and share alike, bear and
man, was the unwritten law of Sherman Territory, and
so, while Philip shouted for the ax, he began to throw
clubs at Tumbler, which were so much larger and more
persuasive than the stings of the bees that the bear began
promptly to back his way down the trunk of the tree.
Coleman and Bromley appeared in a jiffy, casting off
their jackets and rolling up their sleeves as they came.
142 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEES
When the chips began to fly, Tumbler sat down to watch,
evidently feeling that some superior intelligence was at
work for his benefit, while the stupid bees kept swarming
about the hole above, except a few stray ones who had
not yet got tired of burrowing into the shaggy coat of the
bear, and these now turned their attention to the men and
were promptly knocked down by wisps of grass in the
hands of Coleman and Philip, while Bromley plied the ax.
If only they had had a supply of sulphur, by waiting until
the bees were settled at night, they could have burned
some in the opening made by the ax, and with the noxious
fumes destroyed the last bee in the tree. Then, too, if
they had been in less of a hurry they might have waited
until a frosty morning in November had benumbed the
bees ; but in that case Tumbler would have eaten all the
honey he could reach with his paws.
As it was, the swarm extended so low that, as soon as
the ax opened the first view into the hollow trunk, the
bees began to appear, and the opening had to be stuffed
with grass, and a bucket of water which Philip brought
did not come amiss before the chopping was done. All
this time Tumbler licked his jaws, and kept his beady eyes
fixed on the top of the tree, like a good coon dog, and
never stirred his stumps until, with the last blow of the
ax, the old tree creaked, and swayed at the top, and feU
with a great crash down the hill.
The three soldiers ran off to a safe distance as soon as
the tree began to fall, while Tumbler, after regarding
their flight with a look of disgust, walked deliberately into
'THEY DROVE HIil OFF WITH STICKS AJS'D STONES.'
HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 145
the thick of the battle, and began to cninch the dripping
comb as coolly as a pig eats corn. The brittle trunk of
the old tree had split open as it fell, and for twenty feet
of its length the mass of yellow honey lay exposed to the
gaze of the men, while the infuriated bees darkened the
air above it, and made a misty halo about the head of the
The happiness of Tumbler was not altogether uninter-
rupted, for the soldiers drove him off now and again with
sticks and stones; but however far he retired from the
tree, he was surrounded and defended by such an army of
bees that it was quite out of the question to capture him.
There was no end of the honey ; but the worst of it was,
the bear was eating the whitest and newest of the combs,
and when at last his greedy appetite was satisfied, and he
came of his own accord to the house, he brought such
disagreeable company with him that the soldiers got out
through the door and windows as best they could, leaving
him in undisputed possession— very much as his lamented
mother had held the fort on that night when her little
cub. Tumbler, had slept in the ashes the year before.
There was nothing else to be done but to walk about for
the rest of the day ; for until nightfall there was a line of
bees from the house to the tree. The soldiers secured the
bear by closing the door and windows, but it was not yet
clear how they could obtain the honey. Coleman and
Bromley were city-bred, but Philip had been brought up
in the country, and he had received some other things
from his uncle besides kicks and cuffs and a knowledge
146 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
of how to run a mill. He remembered the row of hives
under the cherry-trees beyond the race, and how the new
swarms had come out, and been sawed off with the limbs
in great bunches, or called out of the air by drumming on
tin pans, and how at last they had been enticed into a hive
sprinkled inside with sweetened water.
So, under Philip's directions, a section of a hollow log
was prepared, covered at the top and notched at the bot-
tom, and pierced with cross-sticks to support the comb.
As a temporary bench for it to rest upon, they blocked up
against the back wall of the house the oak slab, which
they no longer respected as a gravestone.
After it became quite dark, the bees had so far settled
that a few broken pieces of honeycomb, which had been
tossed off into the grass from the falling tree, were secured
to sweeten the new hive, and it was finally propped up on
the rubber poncho in front of the thickest bunch of bees.
Tumbler was kept a close prisoner in the house, and early
the next morning the bees began crowding after their
queen into their new house, and by the afternoon they
were carrying in the honey and wax on their legs. So it
was the second night after cutting the bee-tree before the
soldiers removed the hive, wrapped about with a blanket,
to the bench behind the house, and got access to the
honey in the broken log. There was so much of it that,
after filling every dish they could spare, they were forced
to empty the gold on to the earthen floor, and fill the cask
with some of the finest of the combs.
What remained was given up to the bear and the bees,
HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 147
who got on more pleasantly together than you can think ;
and in time they cleaned out the old log and scoured the
wood as if they had been so many housemaids.
During the remainder of the summer the gold lay
neglected in the corner together with certain wilted pota-
toes and fat pine-knots and the sweepings of the floor.
If a shining coin turned up now and then in some unex-
pected place, it doubtless served to remind Coleman how
handy these small tokens of exchange might be if there
were any other person in aU their world of whom they
could buy an iron pot or an onion ; or it may have sug-
gested to the clever brain of Bromley some scheme of
utilizing the pile as raw material. Worthless as the gold
was in its present form, in the hands of the soldiers so
fertile of resource and so clever in devices to accompKsh
their ends, it was not possible for so much good metal to
remain altogether useless. They soon saw that, if they
had the appliances of a forge, they could tip their wooden
spades with gold, and make many dishes and household
goods. So after the harvest they set to work in good
earnest to build a smithy, and equip it in all respects as
weU as their ingenuity and limited resources would per-
The first thing they did was to dig a charcoal pit, into
which they piled several cords of dry chestnut wood, set-
ting the sticks on end in a conical heap. Over this they
placed a layer of turf and a thick outer covering of earth,
leaving an opening at the top. Several holes for air were
pierced about the base of the heap, and then some fat
148 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
pine-knots which had been laid in about the upper open-
ing, or chimney, were set on fire. These burned briskly
at first, and then died down to a wreath of smoke, which
was left to sweat the wood for three days, after which the
holes at the base were stopped and others made half-way
up the pile. Late in November the dry, warm earth about
the charcoal pit was a favorite resort of Tumbler, and he
tried several times to dig into the smoldering mass, with
results more amusing to the soldiers and less satisfactory
to himself than those of any digging he had ever tried
When the smoke ceased to come out of these holes at
the sides, they were closed up and others pierced lower
down, and so on until the process was complete.
While this slow combustion was going on, a pen was
built about the fireplace of the old hut and filled in with
earth to a convenient height for the forge. The flue was
narrowed down to a small opening for the proper draft,
and a practical pumping-bellows, made of two pointed
slabs of wood and the last rubber blanket, was hung in
place. Besides nailing, the edges were made air-tight
with a mixture of pitch and tarry sediment from the
bottom of the charcoal pit, and the first nozzle of the
bellows was a stick of elder, which was very soon replaced
by a neat casting of gold.
Bromley was the smith, and his first pincers were rather
weak contrivances of platted wire; but after half the
barrel of one of the carbines had with the head of the
hatchet been hammered out on a smooth stone into a steel
MAKIisG A HUXDEED-DOLLAK CASTEE.
HOW THE BEAR DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF 151
plate to cover their small anvil-block, it was possible to
make of the iron that remained a few serviceable tools.
While they now had good reason to be sorry that the
gold was not iron, they were thankful for their providen-
tial supply of the softer metal, and Bromley toiled and
smelted and hammered and welded and riveted, in the
smoke of the forge and the steam of the water-vat, and
turned out little golden conveniences that would have
made a barbaric king or a modern millionaire green with
envy. So it came about that, poor as they were, the three
exiled soldiers, without friends or country they could call
their own, sat on three-legged stools shod with hundred-
dollar casters, and drank spring-water from massy golden
cups fit for the dainty lips of a princess.
WHICH GIVES A NEARER VIEW OF THE NEIGHBOR
•ITH the events which closed the last chapter the
three soldiers had been more than a year on
the mountain. They had become thoroughly
settled in their delusion, and more contented
in their way of hving than they would have thought it
possible, in the beginning, ever to become.
The long war had come to an end in a way of its own,
and without any regard for the messages flagged from
Upper Bald. The soldiers of both armies had been dis-
banded, and the good news had found its way into the
mountain settlements at about the time the bear had dis-
covered the bee-tree.
Far and near the Union outliers had come in from their
hiding-places among the rocks, and were gradually settling
their differences with their Confederate neighbors, in which
delicate process there was just enough shooting to prevent
peace from settling too abruptly among the mountains.
In Cashiers valley there was scarcely any difference of
A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 153
opinion, and the old postmaster in the Cove, who had at-
tended strictly to his duties and never spied on his neigh-
bors, was not molested under the new order of things, or
even deprived of his office.
On the very evening when the fires were first lighted
under the charcoal pit, it happened that two men were
driving along a stony road which led into the valley over
a spur of Little Terrapin. All day the rain had been
falling steadily, and the team showed unmistakable signs
of weariness, the sodden ears of the mule flapping de-
jectedly outward, and the steer halting to rest on every
sheK of the descent, as the light wagon creaked and
splashed down the mountain in full view of the wooded
face of old Whiteside, now relieved boldly against a twi-
light sky which showed signs of clearing. The two men
sat crouched on the wet seat, with a border of sodden
bedquilt showing under their rubber coats, their wool
hats dripping down their shining backs, and the barrels
of their guns pointing to right and left out of the dry
embrace in which the locks rested. As they mounted the
next ridge, the major was getting a little comfort out of
a spluttering pipe, and Sandy was looking hopefully be-
tween the horns of the steer at the patch of clearing sky.
" There 's some humans a-outlyin' on old Whiteside to-
night," said Sandy. " I lowed them critters had all come in."
''What yer talkin' 'bout?" growled the major.
" I 'm a-sayin'," said the other, " that there 's somebody
campin' on the mountain. It 'pears to be gone now, but
I certainly seen a hght up thar."
154 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
The major only grunted as if the matter were of no
consequence, and then both relapse into silence as the
creaking wheels jolt over the rocks and grind down the
mountain behind the bracing cattle. The form of the
steer grows whiter in the gathering darkness. The men
are evidently familiar with the country, for presently they
turn off the big road into a cart-track, the sides of the
wagon brushing against the dripping bushes as they push
through the darkness with the fewest possible words.
Now and then they see a light in the settlement, glimmer-
ing damply through the trees, and dancing and disap-
pearing before them, as the wagon lurches and rolls upon
the weary animals struggling for a foothold on the
shelving rocks. At last they trot out on a sandy level
and pass a log barn, where a group of men are playing
cards by a fire. A little farther on a low hne of lights
becomes a row of windows casting a ruddy glow under
the dripping trees, and shining out upon the very wood-
pile where, according to Philip, the man he had named
" Shif less " was wont to sit and watch the milking.
" Hello, inside ! " cried the major, hailing the house.
" Is Elder Long to home ? "
'' Well, he ain't fur off," replied a tall woman in a caHco
sunbonnet and a homespun gown, who came out on the
side porch, shading her eyes with her hand. " Jest light
out o' yer hack an' come in to the fire, an' I '11 carry the
critters round to the stable."
Sandy and the major clambered out of the wagon upon
the chip dirt, with a polite inquiry after the news, to which
A NEAEER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHITLESS" 155
the woman, as she seated herself on the bedquilt and
gathered up the reins, replied that "the best news she
knowed of was that the war was done ended."
The travelers walked stiffly into the house, carrying
theu- guns, besides which the major held a cow-skin knap-
sack by the straps, which he dropped on the floor inside
the door. Both men said *' Howdy " as they stalked over
to the fireplace, peering from under their hats at the
shadowy forms of a number of women sitting in the un-
certain light, who answered ''Howdy" in return; and
then, while the men took off their rubber coats, one
woman, bolder than the others, stirred the fire and thmst
a pine-knot behind the backlog.
Presently the ruddy flames leaped up in the stone
chimney and picked out the brass buttons on two butter-
nut-and-gray uniforms, and revealed the faces of the
women, evidently not over-pleased at what they saw.
There was an awkward silence in the room for a moment,
and then a tall man entered, followed by two others, and
then a party of three. Each man carried his gun, and
each said " Howdj'-," to which the strangers responded ; but
the conversation showed no signs of being general until
the elder came in, unarmed, as became his peaceful calling.
His gun and powder-horn, however, were handy in a
rack over the door, and as soon as his benevolent face
appeared in the firelight the man Sandy advanced from
the corner behind the chimney and held out his hand.
" Ye may have disremembered me, elder, in three years'
time," said Sandy, rather sheepishly.
156 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
"I hain't forgot ye," said the elder, gravely, stepping
back a pace and crossing his hands behind his back. " I
hain't forgot ye. Been in the Confederate army, I reckon,"
—at which remark there was a rustle among the elder's
friends and a murmur from the women.
" Jes so," said Sandy, not at all disturbed by his cold
reception; ''an' likewise my friend the major— Major
" Sir to you," said the major, with a wave of his hand.
"We 're a-studyin'," said Sandy, '"bout campin' down
in this yer valley—"
" We 're all o' one mind here, Sandy Marsh," exclaimed
Mrs. Long, who had come in from the stable. "We 're
Union to a man."
" That 's what we be in Cashiers," snapped one of the
neighbors, who was fondling his gun ; and then there fol-
lowed a little movement of boots and rifle-stocks on the
floor, which caused the major to get upon his feet with the
intention of making an explanation. There was a hostile
flash in his eye, however, which Elder Long observed, and
stretching out his long arm, he pointed to the major's chair.
" Now set down, comrade, do," said the elder, and then,
to the others: "These two men are my guests to-night.
They '11 have the best that the house affords, an' ye 'd bet-
ter be layin' the supper-table, mother. We '11 feed them an'
their critters, an' welcome, an' when day comes they '11
move on. Like mother put hit, we 're of one way of think-
in' in Cashiers. No offense, gentlemen, but hit 's plumb
certain we should n't agree."
A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 157
Under the advice of the elder, the men stacked their
weapons together, the long rifles with the army guns ; and
after supper was over the whole party returned to the fire
in an amiable and talkative mood, but with a perfect un-
derstanding that the two Confederates would move on in
This point having been settled, the travelers were lis-
tened to with the interest the stranger always receives in
remote settlements where new faces and new ideas seldom
come ; and the men of the valley, who had been sullen and
suspicious before they had broken bread, now laughed at
the di'oll adventures of the major and vied with him in
story-teUing on their own account.
The women had mostly been silent listeners up to the
time when Sandy mentioned the light he had seen on the
crest of Whiteside Mountain, as they came over Little
Terrapin. The major hastened to express a doubt of his
companion having seen anything of the kind, which the
other as stoutly contended he had seen with his eyes open,
and that the light was not hghtning or a stray star among
the trees, but real fire.
" Ye need n't waste time study in' 'bout that light, Sandy
Marsh," said Mrs. Long, throwing the last stick on the
fire, which was only a heap of glowing embers. " 'T ain't
worth the candle, since everybody in Cashiers knows that
mountain is harnted."
''And has been ever since the little old man died up
thar all by hisself ," chimed in little Miss Bennett.
" I ain't a great believer in harnts," said the elder, "but
158 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
if you viewed anything like fii'e up tliar, hit certainly wa 'n't
built by human hands, for there ain't no possible way for
a human to git there."
"There 's the bridge Josiah Woodring built," Sandy
ventured to say. " I crossed over to hit myself once afore
" Hit feU into the gorge of its own weight an' rotten-
ness, more 'n a year back," said the elder, " an' hit 's cer-
tain that no man has set foot on the top of Whiteside
The fresh stick, which was only a branch, burned up
and threw a flickering light on the grave faces about the
shadowy room, in the midst of a general silence which
was broken by the harsh voice of the mistress of the
'' Hit 's obleeged to be the harnts, an' comes 'long o' the
bones o' the little old man not havin' had Christian burial
'' You see," said the elder, '' his takin' off wa' n't regular,
bein' altogether unbeknownst, otherwise I 'd 'a' seen he
had gospel service said over him that would 'a' left him
layin' easy in his grave."
'' Which hit stands to reason he can't do now," put in
Mrs. Long, " under that heathen inscription they do say
is writ on his headstone. If he really wanted to be forgot,
he 'd better left word with Jo-siah to bury him without
so much as markin' the place ; an' everybody knows that
unmarked graves holds uneasy spirits."
" Accordin' to that doctrine. Mis' Long," said the major,
A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 159
" whole regiments of harnts 'u'd be marchin' an' counter-
marchin' over some battle-fields I know."
" 'T ain't them that has plenty o' company that gits lonely
an' uneasy," replied the woman, very promptly, "but such
as lays by themselves on the tops of the mountains or
anywheres in the unknown kentry."
" Old Whiteside hain't never brought luck to anybody
that owned hit," said a piping voice from a niche behind
the fireplace, where Granny White sat in her accustomed
rocker. The old woman was the mother of the mistress
of the house, and an authority far and near on all things
supernatural. Her white frilled cap was just visible be-
hind the stones of the jamb, and even the strangers listened
with respect to what she had to say, in the ghostly silence
and in the half-light of the dying embers.
"I 've lived in the shadder of hit for eighty year, an'
ther' -ain't many that 's been atop o' old Whiteside. Arter
Josiah built the bridge, the Hooper horned critters lay
across the gorge one summer, an' two o' the best cows
lost their calves. That must 'a' been in '50. Hay, Larkin,
son— '50, wa' n't hit?"
" That 's true. Aunt Lucy," said the elder ; '' an' a great
mystery hit was at the time. Some suspicioned that the
little old man might 'a' killed 'em for meat, but such of us
as went up found his cabin empty, an' we could no more
find him than if he had been a harnt hisself."
This statement was received in silence, which was pres-
ently broken by the garrulous voice of the old woman.
" Woe ! woe ! unto them that ventures onto the danger-
160 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
ous mountains. The last man knowed to have set foot on
Whiteside was Hiram Kitchen, an' let me tell ye the harnts
had a hand in burnin' Hiram Kitchen's cabin on Christmas
day an' totin' him off along with his prisoners. Hit was
a plain judgment ag'in' disbelief. Hay, Larkin, son?
You 're I'arned in Scripture."
The elder only gazed at the feathery embers.
"Wherever the old man o' the mountain is a-layin',"
continued granny, "he ain't restin' easy, an' ther' might
be a reason for hit, too. He had plenty o' silver— plenty o'
silver." Her voice sank to a husky whisper. " An' hit 's
a monstrous lonely place up yonder— somebody might 'a'
murdered him. Hay, Larkin, son ? Somebody might 'a'
The old woman's words had a powerful effect on the
simple crowd assembled in the shadowy room. They were
prone to superstitious beliefs; and if the two strangers,
who had seen more of the world and had fought in real
battles, were less impressed than the others, they kept a
discreet silence, in which the elder rose to his feet and
uttered the evening prayer, not forgetting to ask that they
might be guarded from unseen enemies and from invisible
In the morning, after the two Confederates had driven
away with their mule-and-ox team in search of a more
congenial neighborhood, the elder seated himself on the
woodpile to smoke his morning pipe and watch the
"Mother," said he, after a while, when his wife came
A NEARER VIEW OF NEIGHBOR "SHIFLESS" 161
forward between the well-filled pails, " I don't believe in
harnts burnin' houses, but thar must 'a' been some spirit
information pre-ju-dicial to Hiram Kitchen that I never
could git through my head. The last thing I did afore I
rode off to preach Granny Taylor's funeral sermon was to
go up on the hiU yonder an' satisfy myself that every-
thing was quiet around Hiram's. I never let on to the
postmaster that there was any Yankee prisoners around,
an' if he knew of hit, he kept hit to hisself. Hit cer-
tainly looks, mother, as if the spirits had a hand in hit,
an' a bad business hit was."
" That 's hit, Larkin, son," said Aunt Lucy, who leaned
on her staff by the fence among the great purple cabbage-
heads. " When there 's mischief goin' on ye can depend
on hit the harnts has a hand in hit. An' hit 's a fair moun-
tain, too," she continued, shading her eyes with her hand
and gazing up at the wooded mass of Whiteside, behind
which the sun was rising. " Hit 's fair to view, an' inno-
cent-appearin', but there 's few has set foot on the top o'
The mountain, which harbored no spirits other than the
guileless souls of the three deluded soldiers, was indeed
fail' to look upon, towering above its feUows and above
the sweet valley of Cashiers. A curtain of purple haze
softened the rich greens of the forest which clothed the
mountain on the valley side, and now, after the rain,
white clouds of vapor were beginning to puff out as if
huge concealed boilers were generating steam behind the
THE GOLDEN MILL
|HREE years have come and gone since the forge
was built, and the three misguided patriots,
still loyal to their vow and to the thirty-three
stars on their dear old flag, are sitting together
in the fair sunlight of a Sabbath morning on the steps of
the golden mill. Tumbler the bear, very shaggy and
faded as to his mangy coat, is sleeping comfortably on the
dusty path that winds away to the house. Coleman's
tawny and curly beard and the black hau- on Bromley's
face have grown long and thick, and the down which be-
f oretime was on Philip's lip and chin now flares out from
his neck and jaws like a weak red flame. Philip sits a
little apart from the others, with the telescope in its lea-
thern case strapped on his back, and there is a look of
sadness in his face and in his wandering, downcast eyes.
Three years have wi'ought gi-eat changes in the plateau.
The harvests have been abundant, and at a little distance
from where the men sit purple grapes hang in great clus-
ters from the vines which have been grown from cuttings
THE GOLDEN MILL 163
of that solitary plant which overhung the branch on the
July day when they fii'st came down its bank with the
captain of the troopers and Andy the guide.
The building of the mill has been a work of time, and
it is not yet a month since Bromley emptied the first yellow
grist into the flaring hopper. Two long years were spent
in shaping the upper and the nether stones, and the new
mill was rightly called '' golden," for five thousand guineas
from the mints of George the Fourth and good Queen
Vic. were melted in the forge and beaten into straps and
bolts and rings and bands for the wooden machinery.
Gold ghstens in the joints of the di'ipping- wheel, and
gleams in the darkness at the bottom of the hopper, where
the half of a priceless cavalry boot-leg distributes the corn
between the grinding-stones. The hopper itself is rimmed
with gold, and the circular wooden box, rough hewn, that
covers the stones is bolted and belted with the metal else-
where called precious; and from the half -roof of oak
shingles to the slab floor, gold without stint enriches and
solidifies the structure. It plates the handle and caps the
top of the pole that shifts the water on to the wheel, and
the half-door which shuts out Tumbler the bear swings on
golden hinges and shuts with a golden hasp.
Healthy living and abundance of food have rounded the
lusty brown limbs of the three soldiers and charged their
veins with good red blood ; but alas ! in the midst of the
abundance of nature and the opulence of the golden mill,
by reason of their tattered and scant covering they are
pitiful objects to look upon as they sit together in the
164 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
sunlight. The smart uniforms with yellow facings are
gone, and the long cavalry boots, and the jaunty caps with
cross-sabers above the flat vizors ; and so little remains of
their former clothing that they might almost blush in the
presence of the bear.
Lieutenant Coleman has some rags of blue flannel hang-
ing about his broad shoulders, which flutter in the soft
wind where they are not gathered under the waistband
of a pair of new and badly made canvas trousers having
the letters '' U. S." half lost in the clumsy seam of the
right leg and a great "A" on the back, which sufficiently
indicates that they have been made from the stiff cloth of
the tent called " A," and that, if required, they could easily
stand alone. Such as they are, these trousers, on account
of their newness and great durability, seem to be the pride
of the colony. They are certainly much smarter than
Philip's, which are open with rents and patched with rags
of various shades of blue, and tied about his legs with
strings, and finally hung from his bare, tanned shoulders,
under the telescope, by a single strip of canvas.
All three of the men have hard, bare feet, and the tunic
or gown of faded blue cloth which hangs from Bromley's
neck shows by its age that the overcoat-capes which were
sacrificed to make it were sacrificed long ago. This what-
you-may-call-it is girded in at the waist by a coil of young
grape-vine covered with tender green leaves, and fringed
at bottom with mingled tatters of blue cloth and old yeUow
lining. And this completes the costume of the dignified
corporal who enlisted from Harvard in his junior year.
THE GOLDEN MILL.
THE GOLDEN MILL 167
except some ends of trousers which hang about his knees
like embroidered pantalets.
With aU their poverty of apparel, the persons of the
three soldiers, and their clothing as far as practicable, are
sweet and clean, which shows that at least two of them
have lost none of that pride which prompted them to stay-
on the mountain, and which still keeps up their courage
in the autumn of the good year '69. And now let us see
what it is that ails Philip.
Many entries in the diary for the fifth summer on the
mountain, which is jjust over, indicate that the conduct of
Philip was shrouded in an atmosphere of mysterj^ which
his companions vainly tried to penetrate. So early as
March 12, 1869, we find it recorded :
" Philip spends all his unemployed time in observations
with the telescope."
In the following April and May, entries touching on
this subject are most frequent, and Lieutenant Coleman
and George Bromley have many conversations about
Welton's peculiar conduct, and record many evidences of
a state of mind which causes them much annoyance and
" May 12. Requested Philip to remove one of the bee
gums to the new bench. Instead of complying with my
request, he plugged the holes with grass, removed the
stone and board from the top, and emptied a wooden bowl
of lye into the hive, destroying both swarm and honey.
168 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
After this act of vandalism he entered the house, took
doT\Ti the telescope, and, slinging it over his shoulder,
walked away in the direction of the point of rocks, whis-
tling a merry tune as he went."
At another time he was asked to set the Slow-John in
motion to crack a mess of hominy, and instead of spread-
ing the corn on the rock he covered that receptacle with
a layer of eggs, and hung the bucket on the long arm of
Such evidences of a profound absence of mind were
constantly occurring ; and if they were not indications of
his desh'e to return to the world, his secret observations
with the telescope made it plain enough that he was ab-
sorbed in events outside the borders of Sherman Territory.
If questioned, he assigned all sorts of imaginary reasons
for his conduct, and at the same time he held himself
more and more aloof from his companions, to wander
about the plateau alone.
During the previous winter, Philip had reported that
one of the four young girls removed by the Confederates
at the time of the capture of the officers had reappeared in
the vicinity of the burned house. This fact was soon for-
gotten by Coleman and Bromley, who were working like
beavers, pecking the stones for the mill ; but to PliUip it
was an event of absorbing interest. Where were the
others? What sufferings and what indignities had the
returned wanderer endured in her long absence, and what
hardships and dangers had not she braved to reach her
THE GOLDEN MILL 169
native valley again? Gentle as Philip's nature was, he
possessed in a marked degree the power to love and the
hunger to be loved in return. Occasionally a man in a
dungeon or on a desert island, or in the shadow of a scaf-
fold, has devoted himself to a one-sided passion in circum-
stances as baffling as those that hedged in Philip.
The sight of this lonely girl wandering back to the
blackened ruin in the deserted clearing furnished the
dolorous lady his knightly fancy craved. A speck in the
distance, he drew her to his arms in the magic lens, and
consoled her with such words of sympathy and endear-
ment as his fancy prompted. In short, he had the old
disease that makes a princess out of a poor girl in cow-
skin shoes and a homespun frock, and had it all the worse
that she kept her distance, as this one did. In the long
days when storms interrupted his observations, or fog
hung over the valley, he wi"ote tender letters to his prin-
cess on prepared leaves of his prayer-book, in which the
grave responses of the Litany ran in faint lines, like a
water-mark, under the burning words on the paper.
He watched Jones and the kindly neighbors (not in-
cluding Shifless) clearing away the wreckage and rebuild-
ing the Smith house between the sturdy stone chimneys.
The new cabin was divided by an open covered passage,
through which Philip could look with the glass to the
sunlit field beyond, and watch the Princess Smith entering
either of the doors opposite to each other in the sides of
This love of Philip's had sprung into being fuU fledged,
170 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
without any stage of infant growth like an ordinary pas-
sion. Besides its unsuspecting object, it was ample enough
to take under its wings her wandering kinsfolk, dead or
alive, and included the cow with the soundless bell which
came to be milked in the evening by the hands of the
princess herself, and then to crop the grass and lie in the
dust of the road until morning.
From the time when she waved him a banner of smoke
at sunrise until the firelight reddened on the cabin win-
dow, PhUip came to linger almost constantly on the rocks,
to the neglect of his share in the labors of the little com-
munity. When planting-time came, and hands were in
demand to spade up the soil, his companions for the fli'st
time secui-ed and hid away the telescope. For a day— for
two days— Philip was uneasy, going and coming by him-
self, doing no work, speaking to no one, scarcely partak-
ing of food. At last the suspense and disappointment
became unendurable, and going to Lieutenant Coleman,
resting from his work in the shade of a spreading chest-
nut, he threw himself at his feet and begged for the return
of the telescope, revealing for the first time the nature of
his infatuation. His lips once opened, poor Philip ran on
in a rhapsody so fantastic and incoherent that the diseased
state of his mind was at the same time made apparent.
In the diary for July 6, Lieutenant Coleman writes :
'' An unspeakable calamity has fallen on the dwellers in
Sherman Territory. Reason has been blotted out in the
mind of our companion Philip, and now we are but two
in the company of an amiable madman."
THE GOLDEN MILL 171
In view of Philip's malady Lieutenant Coleman felt it
wise to humor him with the telescope, and to try the
effect of more active sympathy by joining him in his ob-
After an eager examination of the clearing in the valley,
"Gone! Gone!" he cried in a voice of despair. "You
have driven away my princess ! You hate her— you and
the other one ! You hate me ! I 'm not wise enough for
your company— you and the other one. Give me back
my princess— give me back—"
Taking the glass from his trembhng hand, Coleman
leveled it on the house in the clearing ; and, happily, there
stood the woman, midway of the passage, and on the point
of advancing into the light.
" Take her back, dear PhiHp," he said, returning him
the telescope. "We will never steal her again— I and the
other one. See, there she is ! "
With a quick movement Philip looked, and without a
spoken word he f eU a-laughing and crooning in his delight,
in a way so unnatural and so uncanny that it was sadder
to see than his excitement.
The only chance of reclaiming Philip seemed to he in
the direction of feigning sympathy with and interest in
his delusion, trusting to time, in the absence of opposition,
to bring him back to reason.
Never after this exhibition of petulance on the rocks
with Lieutenant Coleman did he show the slightest ten-
dency to violence. When he came in on that particular
evening, the lieutenant took his hand, and in a few friendly
words told him how glad he was that aU was weU and that
172 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the lost was found, and ordered the flag run up in honor
of the occasion.
Philip looked in a dazed way at the flag, showing that
that emblem had lost its old power to stir him with en-
thusiasm. All that summer, when his expert advice was
sorely needed, poor infatuated Philip took no more interest
in the construction of the golden mill than he took in the
spots on the moon. He was as ignorant of the affairs of
Sherman Territory as the Princess Smith, that plain, ig-
norant working-girl in the valley, was of his existence.
So week after week, and month after month, through
the long summer and into the sad autumn days, liis com-
panions kept a melancholy watch on Philip, who wandered
to and fro on the mountain, with the telescope in its
leathern case strapped over his bare shoulders, as we saw
him first in the shadow of the golden mill.
Scantily as the three soldiers were clad at that time,
they still had their long blue overcoats to protect them
from the cold of winter, and broken shoes to cover theii*
feet; and so in the short December days poor Philip,
grown nervous and haggard with want of sleep, strapped
the telescope outside his coat, and wandered about the
point of rocks.
The morning of January 10, as it dawned on the three
forgotten soldiers, — if it may be said to have dawned at
all,— cast a singular light on the mountain-top. It had
come on to thaw, and the time of the winter avalanches
was at hand. The sky overhead was of a colorless density
THE GOLDEN MILL 173
which was no longer a dome ; and it seemed to Philip, as
he stood on the rocks, as if he could stretch out his hand
and touch it. Somewhere in its depth the sun was blotted
out. Ragged clouds settled below the mountain-top, and
then, borne on an imperceptible wind, a sea of fog swal-
lowed up the clouds and blotted out the valley and the
ranges beyond, even as it had blotted out the sun, leaving
Sherman Territory an island drifting through space.
Philip closed the telescope with a moan, and replaced it
in its leathern case. Even the trees on the island, and the
rocks heaped in ledges, grew gray and indistinct, and
presently the thick mist resolved itself into a vertical rain
falling gently on the melting snow. The strokes of an ax
in the direction of the house had a muffled sound, Kke an
automatic buoy far out at sea. PhUip tui'ned with another
sigh, and took the familiar path in the direction of the ax,
groping his way in the mist as a mountaineer feels the
traU in the night with his feet.
The sound of the chopping ceases, and a great stUlness
broods on the mountain. Evidently the chopper has
sought shelter from the rain. Brown leaves begin to
show where the snow has disappeared on the path, so
familiar to the feet of the wanderer that no sound should
be needed to toll him home. But to-day, while his feet
are on the mountain-top, his aching heart is in the valley.
She has gone forever from the arms of the lover she never
saw. He sees before him the wedding of yesterday, and
in his gentleness he is incapable of hating even his suc-
cessful rival. He is capable only of grief. Bitter tears
174 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
fall on his breast and on his clasped hands. A great
aching is in his throat, and a dimness in his suffused eyes.
He throws his arms out and presses his temples with his
clenched hands, and mutters with a choking sound, as he
walks. He does not know that the rain is falling on his
upturned face. He turns to go back. He changes his
mind and advances. He is no longer in the path. He
has no thought of where he goes. The blades of dead
grass, and the dry seeds and fragments of leaves, cling
thick upon the sodden surface of his tattered boots. He
strides on absently over the ground, parting the fog and
cooling his feverish face in the rain ; and every step leads
him nearer to the boulder face of the mountain where the
great avalanches are getting ready to fall a thousand feet
into the Cove below.
The events of yesterday go before him. He sees the
procession come out of the church house, the women in
one group and the men following in another, and he and
she going hand in hand in the advance. He feels the
sunshine of yesterday on his head and the misery in his
Then it is night, and he sees the lights of the frolic at
the cabin in the clearing. He is no longer the cheerful,
happy Philip of other years, but a weakened, distracted
shadow of that other Philip staggering on through the
He has forgotten his soldier comrades and the meaning
of his life on the mountain. He has forgotten even his
patriotism and the existence of the flag with thirty-three
PHILIP ON THE EDGE OF THE PKECLPICE.
THE GOLDEN MILL 177
stars. Sherman Territory is receding under Ms feet, and
the grief that he has created for himself so industriously
and nursed so patiently is leading him on.
A blotch of shadows to the right assumes the ghostly
form of spreading trees, the naked branches blending
softly in the blanket of the fog. The gnarled chestnuts,
that looked like berry-bushes while they waited at the
deserted cabin on that first night for the moon to go
down, give no voice of warning, and Philip comes steadily
on, with the telescope strapped to his back and the load in
his heart. Under his heedless feet the dead weeds and the
sodden leaves give way to the slippery rock.
For a moment the slender figure crossed by the telescope
is massed against the mist overhanging the Cove. Then
there is a despairing cry and a futile clutching at the cruel
ledge, and, in the silence that follows, the vertical rain, out
of the blanket of the fog, goes on shivering its tiny lances
on the slippery rocks.
WHICH SHOWS THAT A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS
, T was still early in the day when Philip fell over
the boulder face of the mountain ; and when
the chopping which he had heard through the
fog ceased at the house, Bromley had indeed
gone in, but not for shelter from the rain. He had gone
to warn Lieutenant Coleman of the absence of their half-
demented comrade and of the peril he ran in wandering
about on the mountain in the fog. They felt so sure of
finding him near the point of rocks that they went to-
gether in that direction; but before they started Philip
had wandered from the path, and by the time they reached
the rocks he had put the house behind him and was walk-
ing in the direction of the Cove. Finding no trace of him
there, and seeing the dense mist which covered the valley
and made observation impossible, they separated and went
off in opposite ways, calling him by name, " Philip !
Philip ! " and as they got farther and farther from each
other, " Philip ! Philip ! " came back to each faintly
A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 179
through the fog and the rain. They made their way to
such points as he might have found shelter under, but
their calls brought no response. They knew that in his
peculiar state of mind he might hear then* voices and make
no reply, and in this was at last their only hope of his
safety as they continued their search.
At twelve o'clock a wind set in from the east, redou-
bhng the rain, but rapidly dispelling the fog. In an hour
every place where he could possibly have concealed him-
self had been searched, and with one mind they came back
to the point of rocks. They lay out on the wet ledge and
looked over with fear and trembling, haK expecting to see
his mangled body below. They could see clearly to the
foot of the precipice, and there was nothing there but the
smooth, trackless snow ; and then when they drew back
they looked in each other's faces and knew for the first
time how much they loved Phihp and how much each was
to the other.
They were almost certain now that he had fallen over
one face of the mountain or the other. Yesterday they
could have followed his track in the thin snow, but now
the rain, which was still falling heavily, had obliterated
one after melting what remained of the other. They went
together down the ladders, and for its whole length along
the base of that ledge. When they returned to the pla-
teau, Lieutenant Coleman and Bromley were tired, and
soaked with the rain, and crushed with the awful certainty
that Philip had fallen over the great rock face into the
Cove. They could neither eat nor sleep as long as there
180 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
was a possibility of discovering any clue to his fate ; and
so in time they came to the slippery rock in front of the
station, where the heel of his boot or the sharp edge of the
telescope had made a scratch on the stone that the rain
was powerless to wash out.
It was no use to call his name after that dreadful plunge,
the very thought of which tied their tongues to that extent
that the two men stood in silence over their discovery ;
and when they could learn no more they came away hand
in hand, without uttering a word.
This was indeed the point where Philip had gone over
the great rock; but by a strange good fortune his body
had plunged into a mass of rotten snow fifty feet from the
brink of the precipice. It was the snow of the avalanche
making ready to fall ; and through this first bank his body
broke its way, falling from point to point for another fifty
feet, until he lay unconscious over the roots of the great
icicles which hung free from the rounded ledge below him,
dripping their substance nine hundred feet into the Cove.
When he came to himself, chilled and sore after his
great faU, the moon was shining softly on the snow about
him and sparkling on the ice below. He had no recollec-
tion of his faU, and but the vaguest remembrance of what
had gone before. It was rather as if he had dreamed that
he had fallen upon the avalanche, and when he had first
opened his eyes upon the snow about him and above him,
he tried to reason with himself that no dream could be so
real. He remembered vaguely the autumn days by the
golden miU, and he knew that it was not winter at all ;
A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 181
and yet this was real snow in which he lay bruised and
helpless. He realized that he was almost frozen, and his
clothing, that had been wet, was now stiffening on his
limbs. The great shock had restored his shattered mind,
leaving a wide blank, it is true, to be filled in for the best
part of the year that was past. He was himself again
now, but where it was not at first so clear. There was
nothing to be seen above beyond the snow which hung
over him ; but when he turned his sore body so as to look
away from the mountain-side, his eyes rested on the long
white roof of the Cove post-office, as he had seen it often
before from the top of the plateau. Philip knew now that
he was in the very heart of the avalanche. He lay on the
very brink of the ice which might fall with the heat of
another day's sun. At first he began to cry out for help j
but his voice was such a small thing in the mass of snow
against the great rock. And then he thought of the people
from the hills who would come at noon of the next day to
watch by the post-office to see him fall— him, Philip Wel-
ton ! And then he thought of Coleman and Bromley, who
must have given him up for dead ; and even of his uncle
at the old mOl, with more of desire than he had ever felt
for him before. He tried to drag himself a little from the
icy brink ; but his legs and arms were numb and stiffened
with the cold. He began to clap ^ his nerveless hands and
stimulate the circulation of his blood by such movements
as he could make. He had an instinctive feehng that the
avalanche had been trembling yesterday where it clung to
the great, black, vertical stain on the face of the boulder
182 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
just below the trees that looked like berry-bushes from the
road in the Cove. He knew that it would not fall during
the night. He had no recollection of the rain. He knew
that more heat of the sun was yet required to loosen it
for the great plunge. It was freezing now, and every hour
added soUdity to the surface of the snow ; and yet as he
gained the power he feared to move, as the workman dis-
trusts the strong scaffold about the tall steeple because of
its great height from the ground.
Above him, ten feet away, he could see the hole in the
snow through which he knew he must have fallen ; and
as he thought of the fearful shoot his body would have
made, clearing even the great ledge of icicles, if the sur-
face of that bank had not been rotted by some cause, his
limbs were almost paralyzed with terror. The thought
helped to stir the sluggish blood in his veins, and he shrank,
rather than moved, a little from the awful brink where he
lay. Gradually he rose to his feet and looked about him.
The Cove post-office, showing its white roof through the
naked trees that looked like berry-bushes in theii- tm-n,
far, far below him, fascinated him until he felt a mad
impulse to leap over the icicles to oblivion. Instead of
yielding to this impulse, however, he covered his eyes
with his hands until he found strength to turn his back
on the tiny object that terrified him. If he cried out, his
voice, against the rock for a sounding-board, might awaken
the sleeping postmaster before his comrades on the pla-
teau. Even in that case no help could reach him from
below across the bridgeless gorge; and even if his com-
'PHILIP COULD SEE THE HOLE IX THE SNOW THKOrGH WHICH HE KXEW HE
ilUST HAVE FALLEN '•
A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 185
rades were above Mm on the rocks, they could do nothing
Should he wait there to meet certain death in the ava-
lanche to-morrow or the next day? He thought of the
cool courage of Bromley, and wondered what he would do
if he were there in his place. As long as there was a foot-
hold to be gained, he knew Bromley would climb higher,
if it were only to fall the farther, and he felt a thrill of
pride in the dauntless nerve of his comrade. This thought
prompted him to do something for himself, and he began
by whipping his arms around his body, keeping his back
resolutely on the small post-of&ce, and trying to forget
its dizzy distance below him. As he grew warmer and
stronger, he felt more courage. It was impossible to reach
the hole in the snow through which he had come, for the
broken sides separated in the wrong way from the perpen-
dicular. He was not a fly to crawl on a ceiling.
A few yards to his right, as he stood facing the moun-
tain, the bank through which his body had broken its way
made a smooth curve to the ledge where the icicles began.
As he looked at the great polished surface of the snow, the
thought came to him that nothing in all the world but the
soft moonlight could cling there. Hopeless as the passage
by the bank was, he could reach it ; and the feeling that
it led away to the region above prompted him to pick his
way along the narrow ledge until he could touch with his
hand the smooth surface of the bank. He could only touch
it with his hand, for the edge curved over his head as he
stood alongside it. He felt that the bank was hard ; he
186 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
was unable to break its crust with his hand ; and he knew
that every moment it was growing harder. His strong
knife was in his pocket. He drew out this and opened it
with his stiff fingers. Then he began to cut his way under
the bank. Beyond the first surface the snow yielded
readily to his efforts ; and as it fell under his feet he made
his way diagonally upward until at the end of half an hour,
as it seemed to him, he broke the crust of the great bank
and pushed his head through into the fair moonlight. He
looked up at the glaring steep above him, and it was be-
yond his power not to take one look back at the tiny post-
ofSce below him. If he had not been safely wedged in the
bank, it would have been his last look in life. As it was,
he shrank trembling into the snow, and for a whole minute
he never moved a muscle.
Fortunately for his shattered nerves, it was not neces-
sary to go out upon the surface of the bank, which was
considerably less than perpendicular. He had only to cut
away the crust with his knife, and so gradually work his
way upward in a soft trench, leaving only his head and
shoulders above the crust.
Philip felt a strange exultation in this new power to
advance upward, and all his sturdy strength came to his
aid in his extremity. He felt no disposition to look back
at the trail he knew he was leaving in the snow. He was
certain now of gaining the top of the bank, but what lay
beyond he knew not. HaK the distance he had fallen
would still be above him. He was almost up now ; but at
the very top of the bank there was another curl of the
snow, and once more he had to burrow under Hke a mole.
A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 187
When Philip's head did appear again on the surface, it
was not so light as before, and with his fii-st glance around
he saw that the moon was already sinking below the op-
posite ridge. He was almost within reach of another hole
to his left ; and by its appearance, and by the distance he
had come, he knew it was not the same which he had seen
from below, and alongside it the last rays of the moon
glinted on the brass bai'rel of the telescope attached to its
broken strap. How it had come there he had no idea, any
more than he had how he had come to be lying on the
ledge above the icicles where he had found himself a few
hours before. It was the old familiar telescope of the
station, through which the three soldiers had looked at
the prisoners and at old Shifless in the valley, and it made
him glad as if he had met an old friend. He stretched out
his hand to draw it to him. Instead of securing it, his
clumsy fingers rolled it from him on the smooth snow, and
as he looked at it the telescope turned on end and disap-
peared through the hole in the bank. In the awful still-
ness on the side of the mountain, he heard it strike twice
It was nothing to Philip now whether it fell in advance or
waited to go down with the avalanche. And just as this
thought had passed through his mind, and as he tui*ned
his eyes to the side of the cliff above him, the far-away
sound of metal striking on stone broke sharply on his ear,
and he knew that the telescope had been smashed to atoms
on the rocks in the Cove bottom.
From where he crouched now on the snow he could see
the edge of the plateau above him, and as near as he could
judge it was rather less than fifty feet away. The smooth
188 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
rock was cased in thin ice— so thin that he believed he
could see the black storm-stain underneath. It was gi-ow-
ing dark now, and after all his toil and hope he had only-
gained a little higher seat on the back of the avalanche.
He saw with half a glance that it would be impossible to
climb higher. He heard the wind whistle through the
branches of the dwarfed old chestnut-trees over his head ;
and as the cold was so stiU about him, he knew that it was
an east wind. He could go nearer to the ledge, but he
could gain no foothold on the rock. In the midst of his
cruel disappointment and his awful dread of the sun which
would come to melt the snow next day, he felt a greater
terror than he had felt when he had first found himself
down below. His companions might have gone mad and
thrown him over the rock. It was aU a dark mystery to
poor Philip. He could barely see about him now. Even
the sun would be better than this darkness. It might be
cold to-moiTow. At any rate, it would be afternoon be-
fore the sun, however warm, could get in its deadly work
on the avalanche. It never occurred to him that he was
nearly famished, and he must have slept some where he
sat in the snow, for he dreamed that the people were
gathered at the post-office to see him fall, and a crash like
the roar of battle brought him to his senses with a start.
The next time he awoke, the bright sun was indeed shining,
and he was stiff with the cold, as he had found himself at
first. He was hungry, too, as he had never been hungry
before, and the fear of starvation seemed more dreadful
to him than the dread of the avalanche.
A MISHAP IS NOT ALWAYS A MISFORTUNE 189
As he lay there in his weakened state, his ears were
alert for the faintest sound. He thought he heard a move-
ment on the ledge above him, and then he heard voices
clear and distinct. They were the voices of Coleman and
" Poor Philip ! " he heard them say.
At first he was unable to speak in his excitement, and
then he raised his voice with all the strength of his lungs,
and cried, " Help ! Help ! "
" Yes, George ! Yes ! Help ! "
By questioning him they learned what his situation was,
and the distance he lay from the top of the ledge ; for they
could gain no position where they could see him. They
bade him keep up his courage until they came again. It
was indeed a long time before he heard their voices again
speaking to him, and then down over the icy rock came a
knotted rope made of strips of the canvas that remained
of the " A " tent. At the end of the life-line, as it dangled
nearer and nearer, were two strong loops like a breeches-
buoy. Philip felt strong again when he had the line in
his hand, and thrusting his legs through the loops, he
called out to hoist away. As he went up, up, he clung
fast with his hands to the strip of canvas ; but he was too
weak to keep himself away from the rock with his feet, so
he bumped against it until he was drawn over the surface
of the same stone he had slipped on the morning before.
He saw the kind faces of his two comrades, and then he
sank unconscious on the firm earth at their feet.
HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST
JN the day when Philip feU into the avalanche,
although it was likely to break away from the
face of the mountain at any moment and come
thundering down on the rocks below, not a
single person came to the office to watch with the post-
master, who went outside from time to time and gazed
up into the mist, and then, with a sigh of rehef, returned
to his arm-chair before the fireplace. In better weather
he would have had plenty of gossiping company, for ava-
lanche day was quite the liveliest day in his calendar.
Despite the rain which kept pattering on the low roof, he
hoped that the snow and ice would hold fast to the rock
until the sun came again ; but nevertheless his old ears
were constantly on the alert for the crash which he feared.
On many a January day, in the years that were past,
he had occupied his favorite chair in the warm sun against
the east wall of the office, suiTounded by his neighbors,
watching the glittering mass, and noting the smaU frag-
ments of ice which broke away from time to time before
HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 191
the final crash. He had heard nothing yet, and as the
gloomy afternoon wore on he began to be almost certain
that he was not to lose his holiday, after all.
The postmaster, though living so much alone, had a way
of talking to himself, and on this occasion he was more
talkative than ever, because of the uneasiness he felt.
" Hit 's a quare thing," he said, getting up and kicking
the logs into a blaze, and then sitting down again in his
sheepskin-cushioned chair. " Hit 's plumb quare."
By way of making these solitary talks more sociable,
the old man had developed a clever habit of talking in
dialogue, imagining himself for the time in the company
of some congenial spirit, for whom he spoke as well as for
himself. On this particular occasion his imaginary com-
panion was a mountain woman for whom he had felt a
sentimental regard years before, but to whom he had never
told his love.
" What 's quare, ^Manuel f Why, look here, 'Liz'beth ;
I 've sorted the mail here more 'n thirty year, watchin' the
avalanches fall off yonder mounting, an' in all that time
I 've never set my foot onto the top of hit. Most of us on
this side hain't, 'Manuel; an' since the bridge rotted away an'
tumbled into the gorge, there ain't no way o' gittin' thar.
'Liz'beth, I 'm nat'rally a venturesome man, though I never
showed it to you, 'Liz'beth, when I ought to. That 's tvhat
ye did n't. I 'm a venturesome man ; an' this here is what
I 've made up my mind to, 'Liz'beth Hough. I 'm detar-
mined to see the top o' that mounting afore I 'm a year
older ; an' I 've set the time, 'Liz'beth— nothin' personal
192 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
in that, but meanin' that when the dogwood blossoms in
the spring I 'm goin' to find some way to git up thar.
How 'U ye do hit, 'Manuel f Hit 's likely I 'U fall a tree
across the gorge. DorCt do hit, ^Manuel. Why not ? "
The postmaster looked wise, and put out his hand as if
he were playfully touching his imaginary companion under
the chin. *' Why not, 'Liz'beth ? Because folJcs do say that
the old man that lived up thar was murdered, an' that his
spirit has tooTc the form of a harnt, an' brings had luck to such
as goes up thar to disturb him."
The postmaster rose and kicked the fire impatiently.
"Bah! I 'm a bold man, 'Liz'beth, past occasions not-
withstandin'. I 'm sot an' detarmined to do hit when the
dogwood-trees blossom out, an' I 'm 'lowin' you '11 come
an' tend the ofl&ce, 'Liz'beth, while I 'm gone."
The postmaster stood with his back to the fire, looking
down over his left shoulder to where the imaginary form
of Elizabeth sat.
"You '11 come an' speU me, wiU ye, 'Liz'beth? You
alius was a 'commodatin' woman. No, there ain't nothin'
for ye to-day— not so much as a paper. Don't be in a
hurry. This here idee of explorin' that mounting has took
a powerful hold on me, sure. Nothin' that you can say
will prevent me from so doin'. Well, if you must go,
'Liz'beth, I s'pose hit 's high time I was gittin' my supper.
After I wash the dishes, I 'low to walk across to the big
road an' see if there 's any tracks. Grood-by, 'Liz'beth.
The postmaster was sUent while he raked out a bed of
HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 193
coals and set the three-legged iron skillet over the very-
hottest place. Then he mixed some Indian meal with milk
and a pinch of salt, and having patted it down in the
skillet, he put on the cover, and filled the rim with more
coals and some burning embers. After he had buried a
potato in the ashes, and set the coffee down to warm over,
he broke out again :
"I could n't 'a' been mistaken about there bein' no thin'
for 'Liz'beth. I sort o' spoke at random, knowin' that the
last letter she got was in '68, month o' May." Then he
stepped back so as to look through the letter-boxes, which
were before the south window. '^ There 's nothin' in H
except a linch-pin, an' I 'low that oughter be in L— no,
that 's for Riley Hooper, Hello ! hit 's clearin'. There '11
be a moon to-night, an' nothin' 's goin' to drap afore to-
After he had eaten, and put away the supper-things, the
postmaster took down his rifle from the rack over the door,
and stepped out into the clearing.
The sky was not yet free from rolling clouds, which
were drifting into the east across the face of the great full
moon that hung directly over the mountain. Stretching
away to the seamed rock where the avalanche hung was
a wide old field, broken by rocks and bristling with girdled
trees, whose dead limbs wi'iggled upward and outward like
the hundred hands of Briareus. The postmaster kept to
the foot-worn trail, shuffling over the wet leaves, and
glancing up now and then at the granite front of old
Whiteside with great satisfaction, not only because the
194 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
avalanche was safe for the night, but because he loved to
tliink that whatever secrets the mountain held would be
his when the dogwood-blossoms came in the spring.
He went as far as the big road, and finding plenty of
fresh tracks, he kept on in the direction of Cashiers until
he came to a cabin where the bright warm light glowed
through the chinks between the logs and through the
cracks about the chimney as if the place were on fire. By
the merry laughter he heard and the scraping of a viohn
he knew that a frolic was going on, and he chuckled to
think that he had in his pocket a certain letter which
would be a convenient excuse for dropping in on the
The postmaster must have been welcome in his own
social person over and above the favor of the letter he
brought, for it was hard upon twelve o'clock when he came
out and took his way homeward, feeling jollier than he
had felt for many a day, and carrying a cake in a paper
parcel under his arm for the coming festivities at the
" Who 'd 'a' thought," he said, turning to look back at
the lighted cabin, where the revelry was at its height,
"that I 'd 'a' been dancin' a figger this night on the
puncheons with 'Liz'beth Hough ? Hit sort o' took all the
boldness out o' me when she come over an' asted me. I
don't low any other human could 'a' cowed me that-a-way.
I 'm a bold man under ordinary conditions prevailin' an'
takin' place. I ain't easy to skeer," he continued as he
resumed his walk, '' leastways where men is concarned."
HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 195
It was cold now, and still, and the wrinkled mud on the
road was curdled with frost. The moon was well over to
the west range. The last cloud had disappeared, and the
stars were like jewels in the sky through the bare limbs
of the trees. He was in such a rare state of exhilaration
that he was more talkative than ever, and kept up a run-
ning conversation with first one neighbor and then another,
until his cheerful dialogue, which had brought him to
the border of his own field and in sight of the office, was
rudely interrupted by the " too-hoot " of an owl somewhere
among the girdled trees.
'' Shet up," said the postmaster, carefully laying the cake
down on the leaves, and cocking his rifle. " Good night,
Riley. Linch-pin 's come ; twelve cents postage stamped
on the tag. Good nighf, 'Manuel. I must tend to this
sassy critter, interruptin' of his betters. Where be ye,
anyway? Know enough to hold yer tongue, don't ye?
I '11 let ye know I 'm a bold man, leastways—" and with
that he fired his gun at random. In the windless night
the sharp report seemed to strike against the granite
mountain and be thrown back like a ball of sound, to go
bounding across the Cove, rolling into the distance.
The postmaster reloaded his gun and eased the lock
down upon a fresh cap before he took up the cake, mut-
tering at the owl, and then chuckling to think that he had
silenced his rival.
He turned out of the trail to a little knoll which com-
manded a clear view of the granite mountain, streaked
down with black storm-stains that looked like huge ban-
196 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
ners fluttering out from the shining mass of snow and ice
clinging to the crest.
The postmaster gazed upward for some minutes, and
then moved on in silence toward the office, under the
girdled trees. The avalanche was uppermost in his mind,
however, and before he had gone far he stopped on an-
other place of vantage to take a last fond look.
" Freezin' tighter an' tighter every blessed minute," he
began. " When the dogwood-trees blossom in the spring-
time, old rock, I 'II let ye know I 'm a bold—"
He never finished the sentence.
The cake and the rifle fell to the ground, and the post-
master's jaw dropped on its hinges. Cold chills ran up
his back and blew like a wind through his haii-, while the
blood seemed to throb in his ears. He was powerless to
speak. He could only gaze with his bulging eyes at the
small figure which rose slowly from the roots of the great
icicles and then stood motionless and black against the
snow. It looked to be a figure, so small and far away in
the uncertain moonlight, and yet it stood where no living
man could possibly be. His first conviction was that he
saw the spirit of the old man of the mountain, who, for
one reason or another, was believed to rest uneasily in his
grave ; and when the small object began to thresh the air
with its arms like the wings of a windmill, he had no
further doubt that it was the dreadful "harnt" of whom
'Liz'beth had warned him. With a howl he tui*ned and
fled over the field in the direction of the office, and as he
ran the owl resumed its dismal note—" Too-hoo, too-hoot."
As many times as he fell down he clambered upon his feet
HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 197
again, and ran on, never daring to look back at the
" harnt " waving its ghostly arms above the roots of the
great icicles. He thought his time had come, for he had
heard that men never lived who had once seen the dead ;
and all the time, as he ran, the mocking cry of the owl
resounded through the woods.
The postmaster was staggering and breathless when he
reached his door, and once inside, he shoved the wooden
bolt, and leaned against the table in the center of the room.
Only a few glimmering coals lighted the ashes between
the iron fire-dogs. Just enough moonlight struggled
through the grimy south window to show the glazed boxes,
holding a paper here and an uncalled-for letter there,
while the unused places were stuffed with bunches of
twine, and heaps of nails, and strings of onions, and quite
the dustiest litter of odds and ends filled the compartments
X, Y, and Z. As the old man raised his eyes and glared
around the shadowy walls, there was something which
caught a fleck of moonlight high up on the chimney, but
that was only the perforated cross of the churn-dasher
thrust between the logs. In the north window, over op-
posite to the letter-boxes, his eyes fell on a wide-mouthed
bottle, from whose top two dead stalks of geraniums
drooped over to the shoulders of the bottle, and then
spread out to right and left against the glass. With a
shiver of fear, he supported himself over to his arm-chair,
and sank down with his back to the object, which re-
minded him of the "harnt" flinging its arms against the
snow on the mountain.
The postmaster had not yet found his voice. Perhaps
198 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
he feared to break the death-like stillness of the room,
heavy with the sooty odor of the fii-eplaee. For some
moments he heard nothing but his own heavy breathing,
and then a dull clatter, like some hard object striking on
wood, came from behind the house. Instead of being
startled at hearing this noise, the postmaster got upon his
feet, and shufiied across the floor and out through a
creaking door into a lean-to, where the moonlight poured
through the loose log wall and lay in spots and stripes on
the old brindle plow-steer, which was still grinding his
crumpled horns against the wooden rack above his
''I Ve seen hit. Buck! I 've seen hit. The harnt! —
the harnt ! "
The postmaster's voice had come at last, and as he spoke
he leaned on the shoulders of the ox, whose cold wet nose
sought his groping hand.
" I hain't got long to stay. I 've seen what 't ain't good
to see, an' live. I hope ye '11 git a good master when I 'm
gone. Buck. Tell 'Liz'beth that I died a-blessin' of her
name, with all the boldness took clean out of me. Cut
off in my sins," he moaned, throwing his arms about the
neck of the ox, '' for seein' a harnt unbeknownst, an' hit
strikin' out desperit at Jo-siah, or whoever did the murder,
an' not keerin' for the avalanche no more 'n you keer for
a hickory gad. Whoa, Buck, whoa," and as he spoke he
patted the animal on the neck. " I 'm a-goin' to stay 'long
o' you. Buck, this whole endurin' night. I 'm afeard to
go back into the ofi&ce."
HOW THE POSTMASTER SAW A GHOST 199
The postmaster trembled where he stood, and a ray
of moonlight, coming through a knot-hole in the slab
roof, fell full on his ashen face and glaring eyes. He
spoke no more for a time, except an occasional caress-
ing word to soothe the uneasy ox, which sidled about and
grated his horns against the wooden stanchions. Then,
when he grew weary in that position, he climbed over
into the long manger and crouched down on the corn-
shucks, where he could see the mild eyes of the ox, and the
spots and stripes of moonlight on his tough hide. Grad-
ually he grew calmer, and tried to put the gruesome sight
he had seen out of his mind.
"I never knowed before ye was sech good company,
Buck. You 've got eyes like a woman, an' a heap more
patience. I '11 never strike ye another blow, an' if I live
to see to-morrow I '11 write ye a letter, an' put hit in B box,
expressin' my brother^ feehn's in language more fitter
than I 'm able to do now."
The postmaster continued to mutter caressingly to his
dumb companion, until the bars and spots of moonlight
began to fade, leaving the ox in obscurity, which was the
time when PhUip reached the upper bank and sank down
on the snow, after hearing the telescope strike on the rocks
in the Cove; and both men must have fallen asleep at
about the same time.
It was mid-forenoon when the postmaster awoke, and a
man was standing over him, shaking his shoulder. The
man was coming home from the frolic at the cabin, and
finding the front door bolted, had come around to the
200 THE LAST THREE SOLDffiRS
shed. He had the cake and the gnn, which he had found
in the field.
" What in the name o' sense are ye doin' here at this
time o' day, 'Manuel 1 Come outen that manger."
The postmaster obeyed in a dazed sort of way, and when
he was on his feet he shook the straws and bits of corn-
husks from his clothing, the old brindle ox looking at the
two men with his mild eyes from his place in the corner.
"What made ye drap these things out in the field,
'Manuel ? " said the man.
"Come into the office, Jonas," said the postmaster,
leading the way ; and then he told the other of the fear-
ful sight he had seen.
The sun was warm after the rain, and soon others began
to come, — men and women, — and he told his story again
and again, to the awe and amazement of his simple lis-
" I seen a quare streak down the long bank, as I came
through the woods," said one man; "I did sure." And
then they all went out into the field where the gun and the
cake had been found. Sure enough, there was a dull line
plainly to be seen on the smooth crust of the snow. They
all agreed that this was the track of the "harnt," who had
amused himself in the night-time by climbing up and
sliding down on the face of the avalanche.
The story spread through the settlements, and no man
was bold enough thereafter to think of bridging the gorge
to get upon the haunted mountain.
KNOWLEDGE PROM ABOVE
■HEN Philip awoke, after having swooned at the
feet of his comrades when his rescue was ac-
complished, he lay in the delicious warmth of
his bunk. The late afternoon sun streamed in
at the window over his head, and Coleman sat watching
at his side. Bromley was stirring the fire, which was burn-
ing briskly on the hearth, and the smell of gruel was in
the room. The station flags and the crossed sabers bright-
ened the space above the chimneypiece. The map hung
on the opposite wall, and over it the old flag with thirty-
five stars seemed to have been draped just where it woidd
first catch his waking eye.
Strangely enough, the immediate cause that awoke Philip
was a dull boom which made the faces of his comrades
turn pale, and which was no less than the fall of the ava-
lanche on which he had passed the night and the best part
of the day before.
Philip, if he heard the sound at all, was not sufficiently
awake at the time to understand its awful meaning ; and
202 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
without noticing the pallor of his comrades, he weakly put
out his hand, which Coleman took in his own with a warm
pressure, and Bromley came over to the side of the bunk
and looked doubtingly into his face. Neither of his com-
rades uttered a word.
" Give me the gruel," said Philip ; " I was never so hun-
gry before. And don't look at me so, George ; I 'm not
After he had eaten, he talked so rationally that Coleman
and Bromley shook each other's hands and laughed im-
moderately at every slightest excuse for merriment, but
said not a word of the delusion which had so lately dark-
ened Philip's mind. They were so very jolly that Philip
laughed weakly himself by infection, and then he asked
them to teU him how he had fallen over the mountain
without knowing it.
In reply to this question, Coleman told him that he had
been sick, and that he must have walked off the great rock
in the thick fog.
Philip was silent for a space, as if trying to digest this
strange information, and then with some animation he
''Look here, Fred! The funniest part of this whole
dark business was when I had climbed up to the top of the
great bank. There, alongside a hole in the snow, lay our
telescope. When I put out my hand to take it, it rolled
away through the opening in the snow ; and the Lord for-
give me, fellows, I heard it ring on the rocks at the bottom
of the Cove."
KNOWLEDGE FEOM ABOVE 203
With this long speech, and without waiting for a reply,
Philip fell off into a gentle doze.
Coleman and Bromley, having no doubt now that
Philip's mind was restored, because he seemed to have no
recollection of the princess or of his strange behavior on
the mountain for the year that was past, were very happy
at this change in his condition. As to the telescope, they
regarded its fall as a very dangerous matter, and a catas-
trophe which might bring them some unwelcome visitors.
But, then, it was possible that it had fallen among inac-
cessible rocks, and would never be found at all. If any
one should come to disturb them, they might hear of some
unpleasant facts of which they would rather remain in igno-
rance. Now that nearly five years had passed since the
great war, they thought that whoever came would not
exult over them in an unbearable way, or rub insults into
their wounds. They knew that some of the mountaineers
had been Union men ; and although they would never seek
communication with them, a connection formed against
their will might result to their advantage. They had a
good supply of the double eagles left. Somebody held
title to the mountain, they knew ; and if the telescope did
bring them visitors, they could buy the plateau from the
deep gorge up, and pay in gold for it handsomely, too.
Then they could send down their measures to a tailor and
have new uniforms made to the buttons they had saved—
that is, if the tailor was not a secessionist too hot-headed
to soil his hands with the uniform of the old, mutilated,
and disgraced Union. Then, too, they could buy seeds
204 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIEES
and books and a great many comforts to make their lives
more enjoyable on the mountain.
And so it came about that, when month after month
passed and nobody came, the three soldiers were rather
disappointed. They resolved to save what remained of
their minted and milled coins against any unforeseen
chance they might have to put them in circulation ; and
now that they thought of it, it would have been much
wiser to have melted the coins of the United States and
saved the English guineas. If, however, the world had
not changed greatly since they left it, they believed the
natives in the valley below would accept good red gold if
the face of the old boy himself was stamped on the coin.
When Philip was quite himself again, by reason of his
knowledge of milling he took entire control of the golden
mill. In the cold weather his old overcoat was dusty with
meal, as a miller's should be; and in the summer days
plenty of the yellow dust clung to the hairs on his arms
and in his thin red beard.
It is a Sunday morning in September again, and, to be
exact with the date,— for it was a very important one in
their history,— it is the fifth day of the month in the year
70. The three soldiers are standing together by the door
of the mill, dressed very much as we last saw them there,
and engaged in an animated conversation.
"An egg," said Lieutenant Coleman, facing his two
comrades, and crossing his hands unconsciously over the
great *'A" on the back of his canvas trousers, ''as an
article of food may be considered as the connecting-link
KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 205
between the animal and the vegetable. If we had to kill
the hen to get the egg, I should consider it a sin to eat it.
What we have to do, and that right briskly, is to eat the
eggs to prevent the hens from increasing until they are
numerous enough to devour every green thing on the
" I am not so sure of that," said PhOip, toying with his
one dusty suspender ; " we could feed the eggs to the bear."
" We could, but we won't," said Bromley, shaking some
crumbs from the front of his gown. ''When nature
prompts a hen to cackle, do you think we are expected to
look the other way ? Why, Philip, you will be going back
on honey next because bees make it. We are vegetarians
because we no longer think it right to destroy animal life.
We not only think it wrong to destroy, but we believe
it to be our duty to preserve it wherever we find it. Don't
we spread corn on the snow in the winter for the coons
and squirrels? Come, now! We are not vegetarians
at all. We are simply unwilling to take life, which leaves
us to choose between vegetable diet and starvation. Now,
then," said Bromley, spreading out his bare arms and
shrugging his shoulders, " of the two, I choose a vegetable
diet ; but if I could eat half a broiled chicken without in-
jury to the bird, I 'd do it. That 's the sort of vegetarian
" Nonsense ! " said Philip. '' You 're a dabster at split-
ting hairs, you are. It was uphill work making a vegeta-
rian of you, George ; but we have got you there at last,
and you can't squirm out of it."
206 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
" Give it to him, Phil ! " cried Coleman. *' Hit him on
the salt ! "
" Exactly ! " continued Philip, taking a swallow of water
from a golden cup, and addressing himself to Bromley.
'^ When the salt was gone you thought you 'd never enjoy
another meal, did n't you ?— and how is it now ? You are
honest enough to admit that you never knew what a keen
razor-edge taste was before. I '11 bet you a quart of
double eagles, George, that you get more flavor out of a
dish of common—"
At that moment a bag of sand came through the
branches of the tree which shaded the three soldiers as
they talked. There was a dark shadow moving over the
sunlit ground, and a rushing sound in the air above.
Their own conversation, and the noise of the water pour-
ing from the trough over the idle wheel and splashing on
the stones, must have prevented their hearing human
voices close at hand. Rushing out from under the trees,
they saw a huge balloon sweeping over their heads. The
enormous bag of silk, swaying and pulsating in the meshes
of the netting, was a hundred feet above the plateau ; but
the willow basket, in which two men and one woman were
seated, was not more than half that distance from the
ground. The surprise, the whistling of the monster
through the air, the snapping and rending of the drag-
rope with its iron hook, which was tearing up the turf,
and which in an instant more scattered the shingles on
the roof of their house like chaff, and carried off some of
their bedding which was airing there— all these things
'KUSHISG OCT FROM UNDER THE TREES, THEY SAW A HUGE BALLOON
SWEEPING OVER THEIR HEADS."
KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 209
were so startling, and came upon them so suddenly, that
they had but short opportunity to observe the human
beings who came so near them.
Brief as the time was, the faces of the three strangers
were indelibly impressed upon their memory, and no por-
tion of their dress seen above the rim of the basket escaped
their observation. The woman, who appeared to be per-
fectly calm and self-possessed, kissed her hand with a
smile so enchanting, lighting a face which seemed to the
soldiers to be a face of such angehc beauty, that they half
doubted if she could really belong to the race of earthly
women they had once known so intimately. The men
were not in like manner attractive to their eyes, but
seemed to be of that oily-haired, waxy-mustached, be-
ringed, and professorish variety which suggested to them
chiropodists or small theatrical managers.
Notwithstanding the rushing and creaking of the cor-
dage, the voices of the men in the balloon had that peculiar
quality of distinctness that sound has on a lowery morn-
ing before a storm. Indeed, each voice above them had a
vibration of its own which enabled the soldiers to hear all
commingled and yet to hear each separately and distinctly.
The hurried orders for the management of the balloon
were given in subdued tones, and uttered with less excite-
ment than might have been expected in the circumstances,
yet the words came to the earth with startling distinctness.
When they saw the soldiers, the taller of the men, who
wore the larger diamond in his shirt-front, put his hand to
his mouth and cried in deafening tones :
210 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
" ' Skylark/ from Charleston, 3 : 30 yesterday."
At the same time the beautiful lady, laying her hand on
her breast as if to indicate hei*self , uttered the words :
' ' New York ! New York ! "
Even while they spoke, their voices grew softer as the
balloon sped on, the great gas-bag inchned forward by the
action of the drag-rope, and its shadow flying beneath it
over the surface of the plateau. As soon as the two pro-
fessors saw the danger which threatened the log house,
they began to throw out sand-bags from the car, and the
lady clung with both hands to the guy-ropes. It was too
late, however, to prevent the contact, and the lurch given
to the basket by the momentary hold which the grappling-
hook took in the roof of the house threw several objects
to the ground, and on its release the balloon rose higher
in the air, having a *' U. S." blanket streaming back from
the end of the drag-rope. The property they were bearing
away was seen by the men in the car, and the rope was
taken in with aU speed ; but a fresh breeze having set in
from the east, the baUoon was swept rapidly along, so that
it was weU beyond the plateau when the blanket fluttered
loose from the hook.
The soldiers ran after it with outstretched arms until
they came to the edge of the great boulder, where they
saw their good woolen blanket again, still drifting down-
ward with funny antics through the air, until it fell noise-
lessly at the very door of the Cove postmaster.
The balloon itself was by this time soaring above the
mountains beyond the Cove, and they kept their eyes on
KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 211
the receding ball until it was only a speck among the
clouds and then vanished altogether into the pale blue of
The soldiers had not seen the objects tumble out of the
car when the drag-rope caught in the shingles of their
house, and the thoughts of their wrecked roof and lost
blanket had the power for the moment to displace even the
image of the beautiful lady, whom they could never, never
forget. The passage of the balloon had at first dazed and
awed, and then charmed and bewildered them, leaving
them in a state of trembling excitement impossible for the
reader to conceive of.
They no longer had the telescope with which to observe
the surprise of the Cove postmaster when he found the
gray blanket with " U. S." in the center ; but they had
the presence of mind to get behind trees, where they
waited until he came out. He looked very small in the
distance when he came at last, but they could see that the
object was a man. It was evident, from his not having
been out before, that he had not seen the balloon pass
over. He seemed to stoop down and raise the blanket, and
then to drop it and stand erect, and by a tiny flash of light
which each of the soldiers saw and knew must be the re-
flection of the sun on his spectacles, they were sure he was
looking at the top of the mountain and thinking of the
east wind. There was no help for it ; and when he disap-
peared into the office with their blanket, they chinked the
gold in their pockets ; for they carried coin with them now,
and thought that an opportunity might soon come for
212 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
them to spend it. As they moved away in the direction
of the house, they were sorry that the drag-rope of the
balloon had not fastened its hook in the plateau ; for they
believed they were rich enough to buy the coats off the
backs of the two men, and the diamonds in their shirt-
fronts if they had cared for them.
As the three soldiers neared the house, they began pick-
ing up the sand-bags, stenciled " Skylark, 1870." Philip,
who was in the advance, had secured three, wliich he sud-
denly threw down into the grass with a cry of joy ; for at
their feet lay a book with an embellished green cover.
The three were almost as much excited as they had
been when they discovered the contents of the keg which
they had dug out of the grave of the old man of the
mountain, and instantly had their heads together, believ-
ing that the}'^ were about to learn something of the condi-
tion of the old United States, and even fearing they might
read that they no longer existed at all. They were so
nervous that they fumbled at the covers and hindered one
another ; and between them, in their haste, they dropped it
on the ground. When they had secured it again and got
their six eyes on the title-page, imagine their surprise and
disgust when they read, "A Treatise on Deep-Sea Fishing " !
" Bother deep-sea fishing ! " exclaimed Philip.
" Hum ! " said Coleman, '' it will work up into paper for
Bromley said nothing, but looked more disgusted than
either of his comrades, and gave the book, which they had
dropped again, a kick with his foot.
KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 213
Their disappointment was somewhat relieved presently,
for in the chips by the door of the house they found a
small hand-bag of alligator leather marked with three sil-
ver letters, '' E. Q. R." The key Avas attached to the lock
by a ribbon; and as soon as the bag could be opened,
Coleman seized upon another small book which was called
"The Luck of Roaring Camp." The author was one
Francis Bret Harte, of whom they had never heard be-
fore. The book was a new one, for it bore " 1870 " on the
title-page, and the leaves were uncut except at a particu-
lar story entitled " Higgles."
Besides this book the bag contained numerous little
trinkets, among which the most useful article was a pair
of scissors. They found three dainty linen handkerchiefs
with monograms, a cut-glass vinaigrette containing salts
of ammonia, a rag of chamois-skin dusty with a white
powder, a tooth-brush, and a box of the tooth-powder
aforesaid, a brush and comb, a box of bonbons, a pair of
tan-colored gloves, a button-hook, and an opened letter ad-
dressed to Elizabeth Q. Rose, No. 165 West 130th street,
New York city.
The letter bore the postmark, '' Liverpool, August 12,"
and was stamped at the New York office, "August 20, 8 p. m."
Here was evidence of progress. Mght days from Liverpool
to New Yorlc!
The envelop had been torn off at the lower right-hand
corner in opening, so that it was impossible to tell whether
the letters " U. S." or " C. S." had been written below " New
York." The soldiers cut the leaves of the book, and
214 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
glanced Imrriedly over the pages without finding anything
to clear up the mystery which interested them most. They
sat down on the woodpile, sorely disappointed, to talk
over the events of the morning ; and presently they began
clipping off their long beards with the scissors, and using
the brush and comb, to which their heads had so long been
strangers. The experience was all so strange that but for
the treasures left behind, not counting the '^ Treatise on
Deep-Sea Fishing,'^ they might have doubted the reality
of the passage of their aerial visitor.
When it came to a division of the trifles of a lady's
toilet, the well-known prejudice of the world below con-
cerning a second-hand tooth-brush was cast to the winds
by Bromley, while Lieutenant Coleman, who had some
qualms of conscience, was better satisfied with the rag of
chamois-skin for the same purpose. The vinaigrette and
the gloves fell to Philip. They had just a handkerchief
apiece, and nobody cared for the button-hook.
The letter found in the bag was a subject of heated dis-
cussion, and from motives of chivalrous delicacy remained
for a long time unread. George Bromley contended
that its contents might throw some hght on the subject
which the books had left in obscurity, while Lieutenant
Coleman shrank from offering such an indignity to the
memory of the angelic lady of the air. It was finally
agreed that Bromley might examine and then destroy it.
Lieutenant Coleman dechning to be made acquainted with
They never quite understood the association of the
KNOWLEDGE FROM ABOVE 215
beautiful lady with the two men, of whom they had but
a poor opinion. When Bromley suggested that to their
starved eyes a cook might seem a princess, his comrades
were sufficiently indignant, and reminded him of her lit-
erary taste, as shown by the quality of the new book found
in the bag.
After all, they had learned nothing of the great secret
that vexed their lives. Was there still in existence a starry
flag bearing any semblance to this one which was now
floating over the mountain ? Was it stiU loved in the land
and respected on the sea ?
To men who had seen it bent forward under the eagles
of the old republic, gray in the stifling powder-clouds, fall-
ing and rising in the storm of battle, a pale ghost of a flag,
fluttering colorless on the plain or climbing the stubborn
mountain, human lives falling like leaves for its uphold-
ing—this was the burning question.
THE CAVE OF THE BATS
■HEN the nine small gunny-sacks stenciled " Sky-
lark, 1870," were emptied on the floor of the
house, the Crustacea of the Atlantic's sands had
found a resting-place on the summit of White-
side Mountain, and might yet furnish evidence to some
grave scientist of the future to prove beyond a doubt that
the sea at no very remote period had surged above the
peaks of the Blue Ridge. Starfish, shells, and bones, and
fragments of the legs of spider-crabs, horseshoe-crabs, and
crayfish, and some very active sand-fleas afforded much
scientific amusement to our exiles, and brought vividly to
mind the boom of the sea and the whitebait and whales
that wiggle-waggle in its depth.
Neither the telescope nor the army blanket with " U. S."
in the center, nor the two combined, had brought any
visitors to the three soldiers, nor any information of the
real state of affairs in the United States, which would
quickly have terminated their exile.
The very pathetic and amusing volume of stories found
THE CAVE OF THE BATS 217
in the alligator-skin bag caused more tears and healthy-
laughter than the soldiers had given way to since their
great disappointment, and actually brought about such
neglect of the October work on the plantation that more
than half the potato crop rotted in the ground.
On the 21st of that month in this very balloon year, the
area of Sherman Territory was extended by the addition
of half an acre of rocks and brambles on the boulder side
of the mountain, and afterward of much more, as will be
shown in due time.
The twenty-first day of October in the year '70, then,
was a lowery day. A strong, humid wind was blowing
steadily across the mountain and soughing in the boughs
of the pines, while the low clouds, westward bound, flew
in ragged rifts overhead. It was a pleasant wind to feel,
and the rising and falling cadence of its song reminded
the soldiers of a wind from the sea. In the successive
seasons they had gleaned the grove so thoroughly, even
cutting the dry Umbs from the trees, that they were now
obliged to search under the carpet of needles for the fat
pine-knots which formerly lay in abundance on the sur-
At the extreme southern end of the tongue of land on
which the pines grew, a soHtary stump clung in the base
of the cliff. The outer fiber of the wood had crumbled
away, leaving the resinous heart and the tough roots firmly
bedded in the soil. They had been chopping and digging
for an hour before they loosened and removed the cen-
tral mass. Continuing their quest for one of the great
218 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES
roots which ran into the earth under the chff, George
dealt a vigorous stroke on the rotten stone and earth be-
hind, which yielded so unexpectedly that he lost his foot-
ing, and at the same time his hold on the ax, which
promptly disappeared into the bowels of the earth. They
heard it ring upon the rocks below with strange echoes,
as if it had fallen into a subterraneous cavern. At the
same time the wind rushed through the opening in a
current warmer than the surrounding atmosphere, and
brought with it a strong, offensive smell, as if they had
entered a menagerie in August. As soon as the soldiers
recovered from their surprise they set vigorously to work
for the recovery of the ax, attacking the loose earth with
their gold-tipped shovel and with the tough oaken hand-
spike with which they had been prying at the stump.
Their efforts rapidly enlarged the opening, and presently
the great root itself tumbled in after the ax. Pliilip ran
to the house for a light, and by the time he returned with
a blazing torch, Coleman and Bromley had enlarged the
opening under the cliff until it was wide enough to admit
their bodies easily. All was darkness, even blackness,
within, and the rank animal smeU was as offensive as ever,
so that Philip held his nose in disgust.
By passing the torch into the opening of the cavern
they could see the ax lying on the earthen floor ten feet
below, and to the right the overlapping strata of gi-anite
seemed to offer a rude stairway for their descent. George
entered at once, with the torch in one hand, and in the
other the handspike with which to test his footing in ad-
THE CAVE OF THE BATS 219
vance. In another moment he stood on the hard floor
by the ax. and the light of his torch revealed the rocky
sides of the cavern stretching away to the south along the
side of the mountain. Coleman provided himself with one of
the fattest of the pine-knots, and descended into the cavern
after Bromley. With some hesitation Philip followed.
The resinous smoke of the torches relieved the subter-
raneous atmosphere somewhat of its offensive animal odor,
and the flames flooded the walls and ceiling with light.
Their voices, calling to each other as they advanced,
sounded abnormally loud, and seemed to fill the space
about them with a cavernous ring in which they detected
no side echoes which would indicate lateral chambers
branching off from the main passage. By the current of
air flaring the torches back toward the opening they had
made, they knew that the passage itself must be open to
the day at its other end. The roof seemed to be about
eight feet above their heads, although at times it drew
nearer, and occasionally it retired to a greater altitude,
but never beyond the searching illumination of their
Presently, as they advanced, their attention was drawn
to brown masses of something like fungi clinging to the
rock overhead, but partaking so closely of the color and
texture of the stone that they seemed, after all, to be but
flinty lumps on the roof. As Bromley, who was in front,
came to a point where the ceihng hung so low as to be
within reach, he swept the flame of his torch across one
of these brown patches, and straightway the stifling air
220 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
was filled with a squeaking, unearthly chorus, and with
the beating of innumerable wings. Scorched by the flame
and blinded by the Hght, many of these disabled creatm-es,
which proved to be a colony of bats, fluttered to the floor,
and dashed against the bare feet of the soldiers with a
clammy touch that made the cold chills rise in their hair.
This was too much for Philip, who turned back to join
Tumbler in the open air at the mouth of the cavern. At
the same time, however, the offensive odor was accounted
for, and Bromley and Coleman had no further fear of meet-
ing larger animals as they advanced. As a lover of ani-
mals, George was shocked at the cruel consequences of his
rash action; as a bold explorer, however, he pushed on
into the gruesome darkness at a pace that soon left Cole-
man's prudent feet far behind. The latter had a wholesome
fear of treading on some yielding crust which might pre-
cipitate him to other and more terrible depths.
The way seemed to turn spmewhat as they advanced ;
for at times the light of George's torch vanished behind,
the projection of one or the other wall, and at such times
Coleman called eagerly to him to wait. Bromley's cheery
voice, evidently advancing, came ringing back so distinct^
that his companion was reassured by his seeming near-
ness. Once, when the darkness had continued for a long
time in front, Coleman began to be alarmed at the thought
that Bromley's torch must have gone out, and then the
fear that he might have fallen into some fissui'e in the
rocks made him cold about the heart.
Lieutenant Coleman was now picking his way more
'BErOXD THE ILLUMINATION OF HIS TOKCH HE SAW
TWO GLEAMING EYES."
THE CAVE OF THE BATS 223
gingerly than ever, and holding his Kght high above his
head, when, to add to his terror, he thought he heard some-
thing approaching behind him. Sure enough, when he
turned about, in the darkness of the cavern just beyond
the illumination of his torch he saw two gleaming eyes.
The eyes were fixed upon him, and the head of the animal
moved from side to side, but came no nearer. He would
have given worlds for the carbine. His blood ran cold in
his veins at the thought of his terrible situation. He was
utterly helpless, hemmed in by the rocks. It was impos-
sible to go back. He could only go forward. He remem-
bered then that the fiercest of wild animals, even lions
and tigers, kept back in the darkness and glared all night
with their hungry eyes at the fires of hunters. He was
safe, then, to go on, but a dreadful conflict was in store
for the two men if the animal should follow them out of
Bromley's torch now reappeared in the distance. Cole-
man was too terrified to call, but instead moved on in
silence, occasionally flaring his torch behind liim, and al-
ways seeing the gleaming eyes when he looked back. Try
as he would, he could get no farther from them. There
were occasional stumbling-blocks in the way, and once or
twice he encountered rocks which he was obliged to pass
around. Whenever Coleman turned and waved the torch,
the animal whined as if he too were in fear.
Terrified as Lieutenant Coleman was, he could not help
noticing that the brown colonies of bats now appeared
more frequently on the stone ceiling, and presently the
224 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
air grew perceptibly fresher as he advanced. He began
to realize the presence of a gray light apart from that of
his torch ; and finally coming sharply around a projecting
rock, he saw the welcome light of day streaming in through
a wide opening in the rocks, and at one side, thrust into a
crevice,George's torch was flaring and smoking in the wind.
Coleman placed his torch with the other, hoping that the
lights would continue to protect them from the animal,
and then he sprang out of the cavern into the sweet open
air, with that joyous feeling of relief which can be under-
stood only by one who has passed through a similar
George was standing in the dry grass, with a great stone
in each hand, as if he already knew their danger and was
prepared ; but when Coleman told him in hurried words
what they had to expect, he dropped the stones, and they
began to look about for a place of safety. It was not far
to a high rock upon which they both scrambled, and then
Bromley let himself down again, and passed up a number
of angular stones for ammunition. Whatever the myste-
rious beast might be, they could keep him off from the
rock for a time, but they were not prepared for a siege.
They had little to say to each other, and that in whispers,
as they strained their eyes to look into the entrance to the
cavern. Bromley, however, was softly humming a tune,
and just as Coleman looked up at him in astonishment he
dropped the stones from his hands and burst into laughter ;
and sure enough, there in the mouth of the cavern stood
their tame bear. Tumbler, wagging his head from side to
THE CAVE OF THE BATS 225
side just as Coleman had seen the mysterious eyes move in
the darkness, and, moreover, he was still licking his chops
after the feast he had made on the bats.
Lieutenant Coleman had been so alarmed at first, and
then so gratified at the happy outcome of his adventure,
that he had not noticed the character of the stones which
Bromley had been handling. It was not until his atten-
tion was caUed to a flake of mica that he looked about him
on the ground, to see everywhere blocks and flakes of what
is commonly caUed isinglass. They could have something
better than wooden shutters for their windows now.
By a certain gnai'led chestnut which overhung the cliff
above them, growing out of the hill near the spring, they
estimated the length of the subterraneous passage to be
not less than a quarter of a mile. The sun, which had
broken through the clouds, indicated by the angle of his
rays that the afternoon was well past. They now thought
it advisable to retrace their steps through the unsavory
cavern. In view of the stifling passage, Coleman inhaled
deep drafts of the sweet outer air, and shuddered in-
voluntarily at the necessity of repeating the experience,
even when he knew the animal now following him was
only stupid old Tumbler. George handed him a piece of
the mica to carry, and his careless, happy mood indicated
that he returned to the subterraneous passage as gaily as
if it were a pleasant walk overland. As they drew near
the entrance to the cavern, with the bear shambling at
their heels, an indefinable dread of trouble ahead took
possession of Coleman. It might have been the absence of
226 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the resinous smell of the torches. At all events, they were
presently standing in the gruesome half-light before the
empty crevice, through which they could see their pine-
knots still burning fifty feet below in an inner cavern.
As their torches had burned to the edge of the rock they had
fallen through the opening. They were without fire, and if
they should succeed in striking it with their flints, they had
no means of carrying it a hundred yards into the darkness.
The situation was frightful. Outside, the perpendicular
cliff rose a matter of sixty feet to the overhanging trees
of the plateau, and close to the south ledge, which towered
above it. The two men and the bear were prisoners on
this barren shelf of rocks, with a quarter of a mile of
subterraneous darkness separating them from food and
shelter— from life itseK. Was it theii* destiny, Coleman
thought, to die of starvation among these inhospitable
rocks, hung like a speck between the plateau and the
valley, watched by the circling eagles and by the patient
buzzards, who would perch on the nearer tree-tops to
await their dissolution ? The very thought of the situation
Lieutenant Coleman was not a man to shrink from ene-
mies whom he could see ; but the darkness and the dan-
gers of the half-explored cavern terrified him. Corporal
Bromley, on the other hand, was only made angry by the
loss of the torches ; and the livid expression of his face
reminded his comrade of the morning when they had
received the news of General Sherman's death before the
works at Atlanta. In a moment, however, he was calm.
EXPLOKING THE CAVE OF TflE BATS.
THE CAVE OF THE BATS 229
Without a word, he walked away among the rocks, and
when he came back he held in his hands a lithe pole ten
or twelve feet long.
''Not a very interesting outlook, Fred, for a man who
would rather be eating his supper," said George, trying
the strength of his pole; "but you must be patient and
amuse yourseK as best you can."
Lieutenant Coleman stared at Bromley in speechless
amazement as he disappeared into the cavern, carrying the
pole across his breast. It was something less than courage—
it was the utter absence of the instinct of fear which the others
had so often noticed in his character. Would he succeed the
better for the very want of this quality with which the All-
wise has armed animal life for its protection ? Perhaps.
The bear was snuffing about Coleman as if he were trying to
understand why he remained ; and when he failed to attract
his attention, he turned about and shambled after Bromley.
Although Coleman was deeply concerned by the dangers
which threatened his comrade, he reasoned with certainty
that wherever Bromley was, he was as calm as an oyster,
regarding his progress as only a question of time and
To keep his mind away from the cavern, he rose mechan-
ically, and began to gather up the fragments of mica and
heap them together. For an hour he threaded his way
among the rocks, thus employed. The glittering heap
grew larger, for the supply was quite inexhaustible, and
he discovered fresh deposits on every hand.
It was now grown quite dark, and he made his way to
230 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the mouth of the cavern, vainly hoping to see a star ad-
vancing in the darkness, but only to meet a flight of bats
wheeling out into the night. Carefully he crept back and
seated himself on a smooth stone by the side of his store
of mica, and imagined himself a hunter in the middle of
a trackless desert, dying for a drop of water beside a
princely fortune in accumulated elephants' tusks. When
he looked up the dark mass of the tree-crowned cliff cut
softly against a lighter gloom ; but when he turned his
eyes away from the mountain, the sky or the clouds, or
whatever it might be, seemed to surround him and press
upon him. Oh, for one star in the distance to lift the sky
from his head ; or, better yet, the calm face of the moon, and
the touch of its yellow light on tree and stone ! Instead
of anything so cheerful, a patter of raindrops met his up-
turned face, as if in mockery of his wish ; and then the
rain increased to a steady downpour, beating from the
east, and he knew the autumnal equinox was upon them.
He reflected that George might never feel the rain. Miser-
able thought ! What if he were to perish in the darkness,
separated from him and from Phihp, after having lived
so long together ! Coleman might have sought shelter in
the mouth of the cavern; but he was indifferent to the
rain falling on his bare back and canvas trousers.
How long he had been waiting, two hours or three, he
had no means of telling. His watch had long since ceased
to run. Up on the plateau they had noon-marks at the
house and at the mill, and at night, when it was clear,
they went out and looked at the seven stars. He was
THE CAVE OF THE BATS 231
thoroughly drenched by the rain, which had now been
falling for a long time. Certainly George should have
returned before this, if all had gone well with him. And
then his mind returned to the contemplation of that other
possibility with a perverseness over which he could exer-
cise no control. He saw Bromley lost in some undiscovered
byway of the subterraneous passage, groping his way
hopelessly into the center of the mountain ; knowing that
he was lost when, go which way he would, his pole no
longer reached the walls. He saw him retracing his steps,
now going this way, now that, but always going he knew
not whither, too brave to yield to despair.
Then he saw him in a lower cavern, where he had fallen
through the floor, groping about the rough walls with
bleeding hands and staring eyes, patiently searching for
a foothold, his indomitable pluck never failing him. Hor-
rible as these fancies were, others more dreadful oppressed
his half -wakeful mind ; for he was so tired that in spite
of the rain he lapsed into a state of unconsciousness, in
which he dreamed that the roof of that suffocating cavern,
covered with the brown blotches of bats, was setthng
slowly upon George, until he could no longer walk erect.
Lower, lower it came in its fearful descent, until it bumped
his head as he crawled. Now the roof grazes his back as
he writhes on his belly like a snake.
''Fred! Old boy! Fred!"
And there stood Bromley in the flesh, as calm as if
nothing unusual had happened, the raindrops hissing in
the flame of his torch.
THE STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND THE PRISMATIC FOWLS
> WING to the difficulties of the passage through
the cave of the bats, and the utter barrenness
of the rocky half-acre which lay at its other
end, the three soldiers never entered it again
during the fall and winter which followed its discovery.
The two blocks of isinglass which they had brought away on
their first visit were ample for their purpose ; and as soon
as they had secured their supply of fat pine-knots for light
in the long winter evenings, they set about constructing
two windows to take the place of the sliding boards which
closed those openings in the cold, snowy days. It is true,
they could not look out through the new windows, but
much light could enter where all had been darkness before.
Time was nothing to the soldiers in these late autumn days ;
and, indeed, the more of it they could spend on any work
they undertook, the more such work contributed to their
contentment and happiness. They wished to have their win-
dows ornamental as well as useful ; and it was Philip's sug-
gestion that they should try an imitation of stained glass.
STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 233
They had some of the carbine cartridges left; and as
they no longer killed any creatures, the bullets would
supply them with lead to unite the small pieces of isin-
glass and outline theii' designs. One of the mica blocks
chanced to be of a pale-green color, and they made many
experiments to produce reds and blues. Oxid of u'on, or
the common red iron-rust, gave a rich carmine powder,
which, mixed with the white of an egg, adhered to the
inner side of the small panes. They found a few dried
huckleberries, from which they extracted a strong blue by
boiling. They could procure yellow only by beating a
small bit of gold to the thinnest leaf, which they pasted
upon the flake of mica. The reds and blues as they ap-
plied them were only water-colors ; but the inner side of
the glass was not exposed to the rain. After the one
square window, which looked toward the Cove and conse-
quently let in the afternoon sun, was finished in a fantastic
arrangement of the three rich colors, bordered by pale
green, it was decided, with gi-eat enthusiasm, to reproduce
in the opposite window their dear old flag with its thirty-
five stars. To do this, they cut away the logs on one side
until they had doubled the area of the opening. They
managed to stiffen the frame on the inner side with strips
of dogwood, which made a single cross against the light,
leaving the blue field of stars unobstructed.
It was a gi-eat comfort to their patriotic hearts to see
the sun glowing on their United States window when they
awoke in the morning, or to see the ruddy firelight danc-
ing on the old flag, if one of them came in from the mill
234 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
or the branch in the evening. In fact, when this work was
finished, the three soldiers, wrapped in their faded blue
overcoats, were never tired of walking about outside their
house, in the chilly November evenings, to admu'e their first
art- work illuminated by the torch-Ught witliin. Their tough,
bare feet, insensible to the sharp stones and the gray hoar-
frost, wore away the withered grass opposite to each of their
stained-glass windows ; but the patch of trodden earth out-
side the window which showed the glowing stripes and
gleaming stars of the old flag was much the larger.
Otherwise their prospects for the winter were by no
means as brilliant as thek* windows ; for besides the failure
in the potato crop, the white grubs had made sad havoc
with their corn in two successive plantings, and the yield
in October had been alarmingly light. Even the chestnuts
had been subject to a blight ; and altogether it was what
the farmers would call " a bad year." The fowls had in-
creased to an alarming extent, considering the necessity
of feeding so many, and as winter approached their eggs
were fewer than ever. The case was not so bad that it
would be necessary to shorten their rations, as they had
done before the harvest of the first year ; but with so many
mouths to feed, there was danger that they would find
themselves without seed for the next planting. Then,
too, there was a very grave danger that before spring
these stubborn vegetarians would be forced to resort to
broiled chicken, spiced with gunpowder, which was nearly
as repulsive to their minds as leaving the mountain and
going down into a triumphant Confederacy.
STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 235
The bear, at least, would require no feeding, and with
the very first snow old Tumbler disappeared as usual,
making the soldiers rather wish that, for this particular
winter, hibernation could be practised by human animals
as well as by bears.
After Christmas the weather became unusually cold,
and the winds swept with terrific force across the top of
the mountain. The snow was so deep that the path they
dug to the mm was banked above their heads as they
walked in it, and the mill itself showed only its half -roof
of shingles and its long water-trough above the surface of
the snow. From the trough huge icicles were pendent,
and it was ornamented with great curves of snow; and
when Philip set the wheels in motion, a gray dust rose
above the bank, and the whii* of the grinding as heard at
the house was subdued and muffled hke the very ghost of
a sound. The soldiers dug open spaces to give light, out-
side the stained-glass windows, and through these the
evening firelight repeated the gorgeous colors on the
From the path to the mill they dug a branch to the
forge, and tunneled a passage to the water, from which
they broke the ice every day. Short as was their supply
of corn, they were obliged to feed it to the fowls with a
lavish hand as long as the deep snow remained. This
necessity kept them busy shelling the ears by the fire in
the warm house, after they had brought them in from the
mill or the forge, and half a gunny-sack of corn was thrown
out on the snow at the morning and evening feeding.
236 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEKS
Since the hut of the old man of the mountain had been
made into a forge, the fowls had roosted in the branches
of the old chestnuts, and had got on very well, even in the
winters that were past. With full crops, they seemed to
he thi'iving equally well during the severe cold wliich at-
tended the period of deep snow.
The 15th of January in the new year, which was 1871,
was the first of a foui- days' thaw. The sun beamed with
unusual heat on the mountain, and under his rays the
snow rapidly disappeared, and the ground came to light
again with its store of dry seeds. The three-pronged
tracks of the fowls were printed everywhere in the soft
top-soil, where they scampered about in pursuit of grubs
and worms. On the fourth day the avalanche fell from
the great boulder into the Cove, with the usual midwinter
crashes and reverberations, which reminded Philip of his
narrow escape the winter before.
On the evening of this fourth day the thaw was followed
by a light rain, which froze as it fell, and developed into a
regular ice-storm during the night. When the three
soldiers looked out on the morning of the 19th, they found
their house coated with ice, and the mountain-top a scene
of ghttering enchantment. Every tree and bush was
coated with a transparent armor of glass. The lithe hmbs
of the birches and young chestnuts were bent downward
in graceful curves by the weight of the ice, which, under
the rays of the rising sun, glittered and scintillated with
all the colors of the rainbow. Every rock and stone had
its separate casing, and every weed and blade of grass was
STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 237
stiffened with a tiny shining overcoat. The stalks on the
plantation stood up like a glittering field of pikes.
Despite the difficulty of walking over the uneven ground
and the slippery rocks, they made their way, not without
occasional falls, to the western side of the plateau to ob-
serve the effect in the Cove, Philip was in raptures over
the prismatic variety of colors, picking out and naming
the tints with a childish glee and with a subtle apprecia-
tion of color that far outran the limited vision of his
comrades, and made them think that Sherman Territory
had possibly defrauded the world below of a first-rate
As they turned back toward the house, after their first
outburst of enthusiasm over the beauties of the ice-storm,
Bromley remarked that it was strange they had not been
awakened as usual by the crowing of the cocks. Indeed,
the stillness of the hour was remarkable. It was strange
that while they had lain in their bunks after daybreak
they had not heard the cocks answering one another from
one end of the plateau to the other.
Usually they heard first the clear, ringing note of some
knowing old bird bui'st loud and shrill from under the
very window, and then the pert reply of some upstart
youngster who had not yet learned to manage his crow
drifting faintly back from the rocks to the west; then
straightway all the crowers, of all ages and of every con-
dition of shrillness and hoarseness, tried for five mortal
minutes to crow one another down ; and when one weak,
far-away chicken seemed to have got the last word, an-
238 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
other would break the stillness, and the strident contest
would begin again.
Perhaps they had heard all this and not noticed it.
They were so used to the noise ; it was like the ticking of
a clock or the measured pounding of the Slow-John ; but
it was certain that nothing of the kind was going on at
In leaving the house they had been so enchanted by the
hues of the ice-storm that they now remembered they had
not so much as turned their eyes in the direction of the
roost. When they came upon the brow of the hill which
overlooked the mill,— which was a silver mill now,— the
limbs of the trees which stretched along the bank beyond
were crowded with the fowls, at least four hundred of
them, sitting still on their perches. Philip, who fell
down in his eagerness, and rolled over on the ice, re-
marked as he got upon his feet that it was too knowing a
flock of birds to leave the sure hold it had on the limbs to
come down onto the slippery ground.
As the soldiers came nearer, however, they noticed that
their fowls in the sunlight were quite the most brilliantly
prismatic objects they had seen ; for their red combs and
party-colored feathers made a rich showing through the
transparent coating of ice which enveloped them like shells
and held them fast to the limbs where they sat. Wliether
they had been frozen stiff or smothered by the icy envelop,
they were unable to determine ; but they could see that
all the fowls had met with a very beautiful death, except
two or three of the toughest old roosters, who had man-
STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 239
aged to crack the icy winding-sheet about their bills.
One of these, who had more life in him than the others,
made a dismal attempt to crow.
Bromley hastened to get the ladder from the mill, and
the hatchet, and wherever a living bird was to be seen he
put up the ladder regardless of the dead ones, which broke
off and fell down, and chipping the ice about its claws,
removed it tenderly to the ground. In the end the
three soldiers carried just two apiece, one under each arm,
of these tough old veterans into the house, and not daring
to bring them near the fire, set them up to thaw gradually
against the inner side of the door. Then they made a
pot of hasty-pudding for their own breakfast ; but before
they touched it themselves they fed a little of it, steaming
hot, to each reviving old bird. In fact, the poor fowls
looked so much like colored- glass images, ^when tilted
against the door, that, fearing at any moment they might
topple over and break into fragments, they laid each
rooster carefully on his side, where the ice melted by
degrees into sloppy pools on the floor.
The oldest of these unhappy survivors had come up the
mountain tied to a pack-saddle, and consequently was more
than six years old. He was big of frame and tawny of
color, and had long, sharp spurs curved like smaU powder-
horns, and his crow when he was in good health proclaimed
him the leader of the flock. The other five cocks, although
but a trifle younger, belonged to the next generation, for
they came of the first summer's hatching. Their plumage
was red and black, and their long, sweeping tail-feathers
240 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
cased in ice would certainly have been snapped off if they
had had the least power to move their bodies. As the ice
melted from their heads, they looked about the house
with their round red eyes, and otherwise lay quite helpless
on their sides, their claws drawn up to their crops, and
cui'ved as they had been taken from the limbs.
The soldiers looked on, full of sympathy, and fed their
patients now and then with a small portion of warm
pudding; and finally, remembering their medicine-chest,
which they had never yet had occasion to use, they waited
patiently until the ice melted, so that they could handle
the fowls without danger of breaking, and then they held
each rooster up by the neck and dosed him with a spoon-
ful of whisky and quinine.
Following this prescription they laid the old bu'ds in a
row on a warm blanket, sufficiently elevating their heads,
and covering them up to their bills, and left them to sleep
and sweat after the most approved hospital practice.
And now, having done theh' duty by the living, they
went outside to look at the dead, which were, if possible,
more beautiful than ever. The sun was unusually warm,
and by this time everything was dripping and glittering
in the light, which was half blinding, and the thin ice was
snapping everywhere as the lightened hmbs sought to re-
gain their natural positions. As to the dead fowls, a few
had fallen to the ground, but most of them remained
rigidly perched on the great limbs, dripping a shower
of raindrops upon the ice below. Here and there, where
a few rays of the sun had found passage to a particular
STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS AND PRISMATIC FOWLS 241
limb, a section of the icy coating had turned so that a
half-dozen fowls hung heads downward, or the casing of a
hen had melted, while her claws were still frozen fast, leav-
ing her to lop over against her neighbor for support.
By afternoon they began to faU off the branches like
ripened fruit, and drop on the ground with a thud like
apples in an orchard on a windy day. It was a dismal
sound in the ears of the three soldiers, and a sad sight to
see the heaps of dead fowls as they accumulated on the
The military training of these young men had taught
them to make the most of every reverse, and if possible to
turn defeat into victory; and so they fell to work and
plucked off a great quantity of soft feathers, and all the
next day was spent in skinning the breasts, which they
would find some way to cure and make into covers for
their beds, or even garments for themselves. A portion
of the carcases they tried out over the fire, and made a
brave supply of oil for the mill, and then the poor remains
were thrown over the cliff.
The six old roosters remained alive in a crippled and
deformed condition, some having three stumpy toes to a
foot, and others two or one, on which they wabbled and
limped about with molting feathers and abbreviated combs,
the most dismal-looking fowls that can be imagined. The
old yeUow patriarch was paralyzed as to his legs and thighs,
so that he was nearly as helpless as a tailor's goose, and
had to be set about and fed like an infant. For the five
red ones Bromley fixed a roost in the corner of the house
242 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES
behind the door, where some of them had to be helped up
at night, and where they crowed hoarsely in the morning,
over against the window of the stained-glass flag.
Philip, in pursuance of a brilliant idea which he kept to
himself, selected a dozen of the new-laid eggs which they
happened to have in the house, and put them away in a
warm place where no breath of frost could reach them.
When the first warm days of spring came, he made a nest
of corn-husks and feathers on a sunny shoulder of rock.
Into this nest he put the eggs he had saved, and covered
them with the old paralyzed yellow rooster, who had never
been known to move from where he was set down since
the night he was frozen on the limb. The indignant old
bird certainly gave PhiUp a look of remonstrance as he
left him in this degrading position ; and when PhUip came
a few hours later to feed him, this cunning old rooster,
strengthened perhaps by his outraged feelings, had in some
way managed to turn over so that he lay on his side on
the rock, his helpless claws extending stiffly over the nest.
As often as he was set back he managed to accomplish the
same feat, when if left on the ground he would sit for a
week where he was placed, as stolid and immovable as a
The loss of the fowls had left an abundance of corn for
planting ; but when the warm days came after this trying
winter, it was a queer sight to see the thi-ee soldiers walk-
ing about the top of the mountain, with their five sad roos-
ters wabbling at their heels.
A SCRAP OF PAPER
>HE long, cold winter of 1870, which froze all the
fowls except the six sad roosters, and followed
the failure of the potato and corn crops, was also
disastrous to the bees. The hives had inci'eased
to a fine long row in the years that followed the capture
of the first swarm discovered by Tumbler, the bear, and
the honey had been a welcome addition to the soldiers'
simple fare; but the cold weather had destroyed every
swarm, leaving only bee-bread and some half-consumed
old combs from which the dead bees had fallen in a dry
mass upon the bench below.
While Coleman and Bromley were engaged in planting,
Philip was making an effort to find a new bee-tree. He
had noticed some bees buzzing about the wild flowers on
the ridge by the old flagging-station, and he determined
to " line " them by a method he had seen his uncle prac-
tise when he was a boy in Ohio. He made a little box
with a sliding cover, into which he put a small honey-
comb, and taking the old yellow rooster under one arm
244 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
for company,— or perhaps for luck,— he went over to
where the flowers grew near the northern end of the
plateau. He set down the old rooster on the ground, and
opened the box on a stone in front of him, and waited,
watching his bait. It was something like fishing in the
old mill-pond, of which he had once been fond, and he
found a singular fascination about watching the opening
in the box as he used to watch his bobber. The June
weather on the mountain was like May in the Ohio valley,
and the sweet smell of the flowers carried his mind back
to his old home. He had no longer to wait for the first
nibble than he had waited in the old days for the first stir
of his cork and the spreading ring on the water. A bee
lighted on the lid and then made his way down into the
box. After loading his legs with honey, the bee reap-
peared, and rising into the air, flew away to the south.
Philip followed the small insect with his eyes, and then,
picking up the old rooster, he came on for a hundred
yards in the same direction, and set his bait as before.
This time he had two bees in his box, and when
they had loaded themselves they flew away in the same
direction as the first. They disappeared so soon above the
tree-tops that he thought the swarm was not far away;
but every time he advanced, the loaded bees continued to
fly south, until he had moved the paralyzed old rooster by
easy stages the whole length of the plateau ; and the bees,
which came in greater numbers now, rose into the air and
flew in a *' bee-line " over the top of the southern cliff.
Philip was disgusted at this result of his bee-hunt, as
A SCRAP OF PAPER 245
any fisherman, after wading to his middle in a cold river
to humor a fine trout, might be, to lose his victim at last
in the foaming rapids ; but he knew to a certainty that
there was a bee-tree somewhere beyond the thus far un-
scalable southern cliff.
For the present the vision of honey was abandoned, and
the economy of the camp, where food was now alarmingly
low, was cunningly exercised to discover edible things in
lieu of the corn, which, after the planting, was all stored
in the nine gunny-sacks which had fallen from the balloon.
The sacks were piled one upon another in a small heap
behind the hopper in the mill, and the six sad roosters had
to shift for themselves as best they could, except the old
fellow who was paralyzed, and for him they gathered grubs
and worms, and saved the crumbs that fell from the table.
It appeared possible to the minds of the soldiers that
the liver-colored slabs of fungus which grew out of the
sides of the chestnut-trees and the birches might be as
palatable and nourishing as mushrooms. They broke off
one of these pieces one day, which was shaped like the
half of an inverted saucer, and was moist and clammy on
the under side. They had a suspicion that such things
were poison. They had never heard of any one eating
the Hke, and after they had stewed it in their camp-kettle,
inviting as its odor was, they sniffed and hesitated and
feared to taste it. In the end they shook their heads, and
spilled the contents of the kettle on the ground, where as
soon as their backs were turned Tumbler and the five sad
roosters feU to devouring the rejected food.
246 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
When the soldiers discovered what their domestic ani-
mals were about, the bear was licking his chops and the
old roosters were waltzing about in the grass picking up
the last morsels of the feast. They regretted their care-
lessness, and rather expected that before night the old
paralyzed rooster would be their only living companion
on the mountain.
When, however, the bear and the five sad roosters sur-
vived the test, and seemed rather to flourish on the new
food, the soldiers took heart, and found the fungus not
only good, but so much like meat that it was quite star-
tling to their vegetarian palates.
After eating all of this peculiar food-product that grew
on the plateau, they gleaned the field above the deep gorge,
and as a last resort they made a hunting expedition to the
half-acre of rocks and brambles where they had found the
mica. Terrible as the passage through the cavern had at
first seemed to the mind of Lieutenant Coleman, the lapse
of time and a better acquaintance with the interior of the
subterraneous tunnel made it but a commonplace covered
way to the field of mica. Not that the soldiers had any
further use for the mineral wealth which was so lavishly
strewn among the rocks. It was as valueless to them now
as the button-hook found in the hand-bag of alligator-skin.
To go now and then through the underground passage,
however, if only for the purpose of looking at the world
outside from the view-point of their newest territorial
possession, was a temptation which no landed proprietors
could resist. The little shelf afforded them a glimpse to
'HE WAS DOWK (j:^ HIS HANDS AND K^EE6 Ui'U^' TiDi lUfvF.'
A SCRAP OF PAPER 249
the south of the Cove road, which on account of certain
intervening trees was not to be had from the plateau
above. Several cabins could be seen smoking in the small
clearings which surrounded them, but since the telescope
had gone into the avalanche with Philip there was but
poor satisfaction in looking at them.
They found a single piece of the liver-colored fungus
growing on the root of a half-decayed old chestnut, and
even this they regarded as well worth their journey. They
spent some time wandering about the mica shelf, and
when Lieutenant Coleman and Philip were boring their
torches into the ground, one after the other, to rid them
of the dead coal, and getting ready for the start back,
Bromley, who had been poking about among the rocks,
called to them in a tone of voice that indicated a pretty
important discovery in the stone line. He was down on
his hands and knees on the turf, boring his toes into the
soil, and as his comrades approached him, he exclaimed :
" I have n't touched it yet. Just come here and look ! "
Naturally, Coleman and Philip thought he had found
some curious reptile. Instead, however, of this being the
case, Bromley was kneeling over a scrap of newspaper
which was impaled on a dead twig under the shelter of a
rock where neither the sun nor the rain could reach it.
The torn fragment was scarcely larger than the palm of
one's hand, and snugly as it was now protected from the
weather, it was yellow from former exposure, and the print
was much faded, so that parts of it were illegible. It was
possible, however, to decipher enough of the small adver-
250 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEKS
tisements on the exposed side to show that it was a
Charleston paper, and they knew of course that it must
have come by the balloon almost a year before. Undoubt-
edly it had lain for a long time on the plateau above, ex-
posed to the storms, before the wind had tossed it over
the cliff and landed it in such a wonderful way on the twig"
under the cover of the rock.
On the reverse side most of the print was fairly legible.
The scrap was torn from the top of the paper, and had
on it a capital G, which was the only letter left of the
name of the paper. The line below read : '' September
[date of month gone], 18-0." The center column was
" The Hon. Charles Snoivden, M. P., goes down with his yacht
— Earthquake in Spain; four distinct shocks felt— No
dam e done— Movement of specie
"■ London, September 4. The steam-yacht of the Hon-
orable Charles Snowden, M. P., which was wrecked yes-
terday off the old Head of Kinsale on the south coast of
Ireland, was this morning looted by thieves. The ri ,
plate, carpets, upholstery, and fittings, as well as
quantity of storage, sails, and stores, were taken. Lights
were seen from the mainland at two o'clock this morning,
when a heavy sea was running.
" Later. The Hon. Charles Snowden and the first offi-
cer of the boat lost their lives by the swamping of the
raft on which they had embarked.
A SCRAP OF PAPER 251
" Madrid, September 4. Four distinct shocks of an
earthquake this morning were felt in the province
of Granada, in the south of Spain. Coming as t
shocks have, twenty-four hours later than the
ances reported on the coast of Italy by y
ws, would indicate that the disturbance
No damage is reported. In
from the vineyards."
What remained of the right-hand column bore, to the
soldiers, these surprising words, in sentences and parts of
" Local Happenings— Charleston—
B. E. Lee as General— Sherman at the War Office
"The controversy just concluded between the Couri
Mercury on the strategic merits of the two command
developed nothing new. The Sherman cam
ending at the city of Atlanta
ably discussed and with
justice to the dead comma
The great 'March to the Sea, b
More brilliant achievement
of the war and its
in another colum
South is satisfie
When Coleman and Philip caught the first glimpse of
the scrap of paper, tattered and yellow, they believed it to
252 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
be some fragment of the Blue Book whicli they themselves
had discarded. The exposed surface was almost as free
of print as if it had been treated with potash, and looked
as insignificant as a dried leaf or a section of corn-husk.
Bromley, on the other hand, had examined it more closely,
and just as Coleman began to laugh at him, he put out
his hand and removed the scrap of paper from the twig
which held it fast ; and as he turned it over to the light,
he was nearly as much surprised as his companions.
The three were down on their knees in an instant,
eagerly devouring the words of the head-lines ; and Philip
being on the right, it happened that his eyes were the first
to fall on the name of General Sherman.
"'Sherman at the War Office'!" he cried. "What
does that mean ? "
" It means we have been deceived," said Coleman. " I—"
" Hurrah ! " cried Philip, leaping up and dancing about
untU the rags of his tattered clothing fluttered in the sun-
light. " Hurrah ! Uncle Billy is alive ! He never was
killed at all ! If that message was false, they were aU
false— all hes! lies! What fools we have been! We
must leave the mountain to-morrow— to-night."
"We have been the victims of an infamous decep-
tion," exclaimed Lieutenant Coleman. "Let us go back
to the house at once, and determine what is to be
Against this undue haste Bromley remonstrated feebly,
for he himseK was laboring under unusual excitement.
His eyes were so dimmed by a suffusion of something very
A SCRAP OF PAPER 253
like tears — tears of anger — that he could read no further
for the moment, and he put the paper carefully into his
pocket, and picked up his torch and followed his comrades
sulkily into the cavern.
Upon Bromley's peculiar character this new revelation
had a depressing effect. He still entertained doubts. If
the new hope was finally realized, his joy would be as deep
and sincere as that of the others. For the present, the
thought that they might have been deceived all along
angered him. He had an inclination to stop even then
and examine the paper more fully by torch-light ; but the
underground passage was long, and the pine-knot he car-
ried was burning low. He felt obliged to hasten on after
Coleman and Philip, who were now considerably in ad-
vance. They were still in view, however, and as he held
the torch to one side that which he saw far up the nar-
rowing cavern had a softening effect on his conflicting
emotions. He even laughed at the grotesque exhibition ;
for the small figures of Coleman and Philip were dancing
and hugging each other and dashing their torches against
the rocks in a way that made them look like mad sala-
manders in the circling flames and sparks.
Such reckless enthusiasm was a condition of mind which
George could not understand ; but the possibility occurred
to him that in their wild excitement they might set fire to
the house as a beacon-light to the people in the valley ; for
they could never get away from the plateau without help
from beyond the deep gorge.
To prevent, if possible, any rash action on the part of
254 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
his more excited comrades, Bromley hurried his pace, and,
in the effort to overtake them, soon found himself leaping
over obstacles and dodging corners of the rocky -wall in a
wild race, which tended to excite even his phlegmatic na-
ture. As he ran on, that magical sentence, *' Sherman at
the "War Office," stood out in black letters before his eyes.
What war office ? If the paper referred to the war office
of the United States, it certainly would have so designated
a department of a foreign government. If there were two
governments, it would be necessary to say which war office
was meant. If the old government in whose military ser-
vice he had enlisted as a boy had regained its own, the
phrase " Sherman at the War Office " would be natural and
correct 5 and with this triumphant conviction he ran on
the faster. On the other hand, if the Confederacy had
gained everything!— at the sickening thought his feet
became so heavy that his speed relapsed into a labored
waUi, and the oppressive air of the cavern seemed to stifle
He would reach his companions as soon as possible, and
compel them to examine the scrap of paper and weigh its
every word. It was beginning to dawn upon Bromley that
they had acted like children; and when he finally came
out at the entrance to the cave of the bats into the sub-
dued light under the dark pines, he found Philip and
Coleman waiting for him, and clamoring for another look
at the scrap of paper.
There was not much to read in the fraction of a column
that interested them most, but Philip and Coleman were
A SCRAP OF PAPER 255
determined to twist the reading to the support of their
new hopes, and Bromley naturally took the opposite view,
heartily wishing, however, that the others might prove him
mistaken. There was something in the reading of the
broken sentences that tended to quiet the enthusiasm of
Lieutenant Coleman, and when Bromley could make him-
self heard, he called attention to the second sentence, " The
Sherman campaign ending at the Atlanta, ably dis-
cussed," and " Justice to the dead commander." What dead
commander, if not General Sherman ? If he had lived his
campaign would not have ended at Atlanta. It was evi-
dent that there had been a newspaper controversy in
Charleston on the merits of two campaigns by Sherman
and Lee— the Atlanta campaign and the March to the
Sea— whatever that might be. The latter, Bromley
thought, was clearly some achievement of Lee's. And
then he remembered his prophecy on the night when they
had changed the name of the plateau from Lincoln to
" It proves," cried Bromley, " just what I foresaw : that,
after the capture of Washington, Lee led his army across
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, living on the
country, to meet the foreign allies of the Confederacy in
the harbor of New York. It was certainly a brilliant
mihtary movement. Look," he cried, when the others
were silent, " ' South is satisfied— happy ending—' "
"But," said Philip, still obstinate, "what do you make
of those five words, ' Sherman at the War Office ' ? How
do you get around that ? "
256 THE LAST THEEE SOLDIERS
''Why, my dear boy/' said Bromley, "this is only the
heading of a newspaper article. It does not mean that
General Sherman was at the war office in person. It
simply refers to General Sherman's record in the War
After all their excitement, Coleman and Philip were
obliged to give way to the convincing evidence revealed
in the broken sentences. They were too tired by this time
to consider the bits of foreign news, or notice the dates,
and it was quite dark when they reached the house and
went dejected and supperless to bed.
The next morning they got down the map, and looked
ruefully at the States which Lee must have devastated in
his triumphant march. With the consent of the others,
Bromley took a pen and traced the probable route by
Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Trenton to the Jersey coast
of New York harbor. Bromley was determined to lay
out the line of march by Harrisburg, and was restrained
only by physical force, which resulted in blotting the
map at the point where his clumsy line was arrested.
They agreed, however, that Lee's victorious army had
undoubtedly camped on the lower bay and along the
Raritan River, in the country between Perth Amboy and
the old battle-field of Monmouth. They were convinced
that the map was utterly wrong, for after such a march it
was doubtful if there were any United States at aU. The
disaster appeared more overwhelming than ever, and they
hung the map back on the wall— in another place, how-
ever, for it was discovered that the rain had beaten through
THE HOW CHAS. NOWDEN, M. P., GOES F/ftWy
W ITH ^IS YA 'HT— EAKTHQrAKE I^ OPMS-
FOCR'' DlSrr CT 8H0CEH FIXT-^'O J.AM-
. £OC.ii HAPPEXmaS, CHABLE
4 B. E. LEE liii GENERAL~f>
MAN AT TBE WAS OFl
j Tlie controversy Joat coneladed between tt
Mercury on tlie strategic merits of the two
Jeveloped notbingr new. The Sbecmap
ending.it the City of AUanta^^
ably discussed and witlf "
jastiee to the dead combat.
The great Marcb to the se«, ^
pt^a -ler iih — ^The «> im yacht of tte^ ' ^"re briUiant acbtsTemen^
d '<-'ii.' Chabje-^ Ssowbjvs, it. P, which T^ia » of the war and its- -^
uSTevki.l y.-stera«> off th«^Oia hea 1 i,f Kintjilcoti fue 1 :n another eolio^
«3«tli ooAtit of U -Un'!, wa< this mornML»ri, ! hv [ .South is datlsfle*
thlovrg The rir ^ pl«te, >i<~pt^. ii' " jls^mL. ' <■•> , happy cndjir/'
tings, ns well a&'t large qoantitj jf emrdapvAu aad J ~
stores^ wore fcak»i •. XiRhts sta'e seeS'fiStti tue mam-
land at t«o o'clx-i tUii mc.faiag„wbeB a bear? sta
' \3 rnnnlng.
I.ATf j..~Xl'> ilim r<JvELE8 ^^o■n••DE.■^ ».i t 'I « i "St
o^iwt of the b lat lost their ll^ofl by the swaaipjpg of
tbe nut on wb.ab th"y h;^ omhatkoO *
JIakb' .B it<.mber*tb.~F<rardistmo»l)BocJi«of an jJ
> akh 1 UK 5 tl 8 morning were felt in the province of _^
^innaCt., lu ha south of Spain. Coming »a ♦'"
hocSsJjaVe, -«-eBty-fonr boars later than 'be/
wi:fi,ort ! on tiut coast of IwSy, by > i
■'THE SCKAP OF PAPER."
A SCRAP OF PAPER 259
the logs and run down across the Pacific side. Poor as it
was, they were determined to preserve it.
It was not until late in the afternoon of the day on
which they had altered the map that the three soldiers
returned to the examination of the scrap of paper which
they had agreed from the first could have reached the
mountain-top only by falling from the balloon the year
" How is this ? " cried Coleman, pointing excitedly to the
dates of the foreign telegrams. " This piece of newspaper
could not have come by the balloon. The balloon passed
over the mountain on September 5, having left the city of
Charleston, as declared by the tail aeronaut, at 3 : 30 o'clock
of the afternoon before, which was the 4th of September.
Look at the dates for yourself," he continued, handing
the paper to Bromley. ''Was n't the Honorable M. P.
drowned on the morning of September 4 ? Can't you read
there that the earthquake in Spain was on the 4th ? "
" What of that ? " said Bromley ; " you can't make out
the date of the paper."
" I don't care what the date of publication was," rephed
Coleman. " If it came by the balloon it was pubhshed
before September 5. Now please tell me how it could
bring European news of the 4th."
" Hum ! " said Bromley, somewhat puzzled. " If it had
been published on the 3d, it could n't bring news of the
4th— that 's certain."
"I have it," cried Philip; "Fred has got the dates of
the diary more than a week out of the way. We thought
260 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the balloon passed on September 5. It was nearer the
"No," exclaimed Coleman, glaring at Philip; "there is
no mistake in the record; not a date is omitted. Leap-
year was added to the days in February when it came
around. / make a mistake in the date ! No, sir ! There
is no mistake. Whatever happens, I will stand on the
"You are right, old man," cried Bromley, interrupting
him 5 " and the paper proves it. Don't you see the point?
They have got the Atlantic cable down at last, and work-
ing like a charm. The paper was published on the 4th
of September. It was an afternoon paper, and this piece
fell from the balloon on the 5th of September."
They agreed that this was wonderful as explaining with-
out doubt what at first seemed impossible, and at the same
time verifying the accuracy of the dates in the diary which
Lieutenant Coleman had conducted for more than six
years at the time the balloon passed. Coleman and Brom-
ley remembered distinctlj^ the unsuccessful attempts at
laying the Atlantic cable in the summer of 1858, and the
fame of Cyrus Field as its projector ; and now by the dis-
covery of this scrap of yellow and tattered paper they were
made aware that the great project had been continued to
a successful issue. Possibly they were the more keenly
interested in this evidence of progress in the world below
from having been themselves connected with telegraphing
in a modest way. At all events, they regarded the yellow
messenger as one of their most significant possessions, and
A SCRAP OF PAPER 261
skewered it against the chimney through the very hole
made by the dry twig which had held it so long under the
cover of the rock awaiting their inspection.
It was near the end of July now, and the spears of com
which had thrust their tiny dark-green lances out of the
mellow earth had first turned yellow, and then withered
and died. A few plants here and there had escaped the
ravages of the grubs, but the yield would be insignificant,
and they were good enough farmers by this time to know
that to plant more would be only a waste of the small store
of food they had left. If the lives of the fowls had been
spared, it might have been different. At the time the
ground had been spaded the five sad roosters had done all
that lay in their power to exterminate the grubs, but their
capacity was not the capacity of the four hundred fowls
of the season before.
The potatoes had suffered, though in less degree, from
the same hidden enemy; and unless something could be
done to increase their food-supply the three soldiers would
be reduced to the verge of starvation before another winter
came around. They might yet be forced to abandon their
vegetarian principles and to eat the bear and the six old
roosters. Rather than do anything so inhuman, they
declared they would find some way to open communica-
tion with the people in the valley. They might easily have
planted a larger area in former years, and stored up corn
against a failure in the crop, but of this they had never
The morning after they had discovered the scrap of
262 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
paper on the mica shelf, they all went solemnly to the
mill and watched Philip set the machinery in motion and
grind the first of the nine small sacks of corn. The whir
of the wheels and the hum of the stones in the midst of
the splashing of the water outside made the sweetest of
music in their ears, but the song of the mill was of brief
duration. When the last kernels began to dance on the
old cavalry boot-leg in the bottom of the hopper, the miller
shut off the water, and in the silence that followed the
three soldiers looked ruefully at the small heap of yellow
meal on the floor of the dusty bin. It was not more than
enough to keep themselves and the paralyzed old rooster
alive for a week. If they relied upon the meal alone, in
nine weeks they would be out of bread, and the golden
mill would be a useless possession.
Discovery was their only hope of further subsistence.
They had made some remarkable finds in the past, but at
the beginning of their eighth year on the mountain i1?
would seem that no secrets of the plateau had escaped the
prying eyes of these enterprising young men. Philip re-
minded his comrades of the bee-tree, which was un-
doubtedly stored with honey, beyond the southern cliff,
but this they had always regarded as impassable. From
the mica shelf they could see that it was a narrow ledge,
and not a higher level ; and although the small shelf ex-
tended a trifle beyond it, the soldiers had seen no way of
scahng the rocks which rose from the brambles and mica,
so as to reach the territory beyond the southern ledge.
They had never seen these rocks from above, nor any
A SCRAP OF PAPER 263
part of the brambly half -acre, for the reason that the edge
of the plateau shelved off in a dangerous incline of smooth
granite, which it was not possible to look over. Other-
wise they might have discovered the outside half -acre long
before they found the cavernous path which led to it.
Bromley now proposed to be lowered to the outer edge of
the shelving rock by means of the breeches-buoy which had
lifted Philip from his perilous seat on the avalanche. It
was not at all a dangerous experiment, and as soon as he
was in a position to examine the rocks below the base of
the southern cliff, he saw a narrow ledge which would
afford a sure foothold, and which led away upward until
it was lost behind the rocks. Although invisible from
below, it could be reached by their longest ladder.
Whether the path along the ledge would enable them
to reach the top of the mountain to the south remained to
be determined. They were all on fire with the fever of
exploration ; and they had no doubt that the rich bee-tree
would reward their efforts with new stores of honey. That
night, by means of the canvas strap, they lowered their
ladder over the ledge until it rested on the mica shelf.
Next morning, bright and early, Philip got out his
small honey-box, and would have taken the old paralytic
rooster along but for the implements it was necessary to
carry. Besides their torches, in passing through the cav-
ern their hands would be full with the ax and a pail for
water, and another in which to bring back the honey.
It was a clear July day, with a soft south wind breath-
ing on the mountain ; and when the three soldiers arrived
264 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
on their brambly half -acre they found their ladder leaning
safely against the rocks where they had lowered it. After
they had smothered their torches and laid them by to
await their return, they tried the ladder, which proved to
be too short by a couple of rungs to reach the path on the
cliff. At first they thought they should be obliged to re-
tiurn and make a longer one, but Lieutenant Coleman was
something of an engineer on fortifications, and under his
directions they fell to work building a platform of stones
and timber, which afforded the ladder a secure foundation
and raised it safely to the brow of the ledge.
Bromley went ahead with the ax, and Coleman and
PhiUp followed with the pails. The soldiers had brought
along their overcoats for the fight with the bees; and
when they put them on after the rough exercise of han-
dling the stones, they found them rather oppressive to theu'
brown shoulders, whose summer costume usually consisted
of one suspender. Bromley was very red in the face as
he pushed along on the rocky path, cutting away a root
or an overhanging limb which obstructed their passage.
THE DESERTED HOUSE
^HE path up which the three soldiers were
climbing was not a path at all in the sense of
its having been worn by the feet of men or
animals. It was at first a narrow ledge, and
then the dry bed of a watercourse, which overflowed for
a few days when the snows melted in the spring, and was
waUed in by an outer ledge, and turned upward at an easy
incline which offered no serious obstacle to the progress
of the explorers. The soldiers halted midway, and took
off their oppressive overcoats and wiped their red faces.
The top of the mountain beyond the southern wall was
about half the area of their own plateau, and, to the con-
sternation of the three soldiers, in the very center of the
tract stood a log house flanked by some tumble-down
sheds. This unexpected discovery was so startling that
they retreated below the bank for consultation. They had
no doubt that the bees Philip had lined came from the
hives of these people. If there were a bee-tree at aU, they
would not be allowed to cut it. Lieutenant Coleman was
266 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
at first disposed to return without revealing themselves to
the strangers. Their curiosity, however, was so roused,
and their desire was so great to learn something of their
neighbors, that the three soldiers crept back until only
their heads were above the edge of the bank, and their
wondering eyes fixed on the house. There might be
women there, and from a sense of modesty each man got
back into his old blue overcoat. They talked in husky
whispers as they stared through the bushes, expecting
every moment to see some one come out for a pail of water
or an armful of wood.
" There 's a man down there by the shed," whispered
Philip ; and so timid of their kind had the soldiers become
after seven years of seclusion, during which they had not
spoken to a human being, that they ducked their three
heads in a tremble of excitement. Presently Bromley
looked again, and almost laughed out loud ; for the man
was only a stump with something thrown over it that
stirred with the wind.
There was no smoke from the chimney ; but it was mid-
way between breakfast and dinner, and fire was not to be
expected at that hour in midsummer. There were no clothes
hung out to diy, and no growing crops in sight ; but there
were small stacks of corn-stalks at different points on the
field, and these were in every stage of decay, from the
conical heap overgrown with vines to the flat moimd of
gray stalks through which the young chestnuts had
sprouted and grown to a thrifty height. A forest of hop-
vines grew over the eaves of the house, flaunting their
THE DESERTED HOUSE 267
green tendrils in the soft south wind, and giving an un-
mistakably home-like air to the place. As no one appeared
after an hour's watching, it was more than likely that the
family was absent for the day or asleep inside. The
longer the soldiers waited, the greater their curiosity be-
came, and then they remembered their scarcity of food,
and felt the gold coins in their pockets. It would be
fooUsh to return without buying something from these
neighbor-people. Their vow was not to go down from the
mountain; and if they neglected this opportunity to
supply their wants, starvation would soon drive them into
the Confederacy, vow or no vow.
Bromley, as usual, was the first to come to a decision ;
and then all three climbed boldly out upon the bank and
prepared to visit the house. As they advanced over the
grass they buttoned their overcoats more closely about
their throats, and jingled the coins in their pockets to keep
up their courage. They looked down at their bare feet
and legs, which naturally made them timid at the prospect
of meeting women ; and so, huddled together for support,
they crossed the dry chip dirt, and came around the
corner of the house. The door stood open above the
smooth stone step, and Bromley struck it with his knuckles,
whiLe his comrades waited behind him, feeling instinc-
tively, in their momentary embarrassment, for their collars
and wristbands, which had never before been out of their
reach in the presence of the other sex. If they had been
less embarrassed they would have noticed the utter ab-
sence of all signs of habitation outside the house, and that
268 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the door itself was sagging inward from its rusty hinges.
The interior was darkened by the sliding boards which
closed the windows, and gave forth a musty, earthy smell.
" There 's nobody lives here," said Bromley, in his strong,
natural voice, at which Coleman and Philip were startled
into a small spasm of feeling again for their shirt-collars ;
and then, as he gave a kick to the lurching door, they
dropped their nervous fingers and followed him in. Brom-
ley opened one of the windows, which let in but a dim
light because of the thick mat of hop- vines which had
overgrown it. The first object that caught the eyes of the
soldiers was a considerable library of books crowded to-
gether on three shelves above the fireplace.
Philip had his hand at once on the familiar cover of
" Uncle Tom's Cabin " ; Bromley took down a faded volume
of the "Anti-Slavery Record" for the year 1836; and
Coleman went outside the door to examine a small book
which bore in gilded letters on the cover, " The Branded
Hand." On the title-page there was a woodcut of a hand
with two S's on the open palm. The story w^s of the
trial and imprisonment of Jonathan Waller, or Walker,
at Pensacola, Florida; and a few pages on, the author
was shown dripping with perspiration in the pillory.
This book had been published in 1845, and Lieutenant
Coleman dropped it on the door-step and hastened back
to find something more modem. In fact, the three soldiers
were moved by the same desire to find something— any-
thing— that had been printed since the year 1864. So it
was with the greatest disgust that they took from the lower
THE DESERTED HOUSE.
THE DESERTED HOUSE 271
shelf and threw down, one after another, such ancient
history as " Captain Canot ; or, Twenty Years of an Afri-
can Slaver," 1854 ; " The Alton Riots," by Rev. Edward
Beecher, 1838 ; " Abohtion a Sedition," 1839 ; "Memoir of
Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy," 1838 ; and " Slavery Unmasked,"
1856. There were other curious works on the same sub-
ject, bearing equally remote dates.
On the second shelf there was a mixed collection of thin
periodicals in blue, yellow, and gray covers, such as " The
Quarterly Anti-Slavery Magazine," "The Emancipator,"
and " The Slave's Friend," and several volumes of speeches
by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, bearing
date as late as 1858.
The upper shelf was filled with small books and pam-
phlets on temperance and prohibition, not one of which
had been published since the year 1852.
Lieutenant Coleman and Bromley were so keenly dis-
appointed at finding among so many books nothing that
threw any Light on the state of the country since their ar-
rival on the mountain, that they were almost tempted to
throw the library into the fireplace and burn it up by
starting a fire with their fiints.
The perfect order in which the books had been arranged
was strangely in contrast with the otherwise wrecked con-
dition of the room. The excitement of the soldiers on
seeing the library had prevented them from noticing that
the hearthstone had been wrenched from its original
position, and that the earth had been dug out to some
depth beneath it and thrown in a heap against the edge of
272 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
the single bunk by the south wall. Stones had been pried
fi'om the back of the chimney, and there was abundant
evidence that some person had been hunting for treasure.
The rusty spade with which the digging had been done
lay in the fireplace, where it had been thrown by the baffled
robber. The bedtick had been ripped open with a knife,
and the straw with which it had been filled was scattered
over the dry earth on the floor. The blankets and every-
thing of value in the house had been carried away. It
might be that murder had been committed here as well as
robbery. As there was no stain of blood on the mattress
or on the floor. Lieutenant Coleman concluded that the
robber was only a cowardly thief who had stolen the
property from the deserted cabin. It would seem, how-
ever, that this man had had some knowledge of the dead
mountaineer which had caused him to suspect that there
was hidden treasure in the house. Possibly he had found
what he sought.
The discovery of the house and its contents was so star-
tling that the soldiers forgot aU about the bee-tree they
had come in search of. The absence of everything in the
nature of food forced itself upon their minds, as they felt
the coins in their pockets. There might be corn in one of
the tumbledown outhouses. Both were sadly decayed and
broken by the winds and storms to which the strong walls
and good roof of the house had not yet yielded. The
first shed contained a small heap of wood and a rusty ax,
and the other appeared to have been used as a cow-stall.
The paths were overgrown with grass, which indicated
THE DESERTED HOUSE 273
that years had passed since the place had been inhabited.
The good order in which the books had been left led the
soldiers to doubt if the place had been visited since the
robber had gone away. It was true that the library was of
a character that would be undesirable in a slaveholding
Confederacy ; and if any one had seen it since the robbery,
it was strange that he had not destroyed the objection-
This state of things was so puzzling to Lieutenant Cole-
man and his comrades that they set out at once to make
the circuit of this small tract on the mountain-top, which
they naturally believed must be somewhat difficult of ac-
cess. There must be a road that led to it. The robber
might have climbed over the rocks, through some difficult
pass, and so might the owner of the house ; but the cow-shed
would make it seem that domestic animals had been driven
up from the valley. The western front was the boulder side
of the mountain, and as unapproachable here as on their
own plateau. After the most careful exploration, the re-
maining sides were found to be of the same character as
the Cashiers valley side beyond the dividing cliff. This
smaller tract of mountain-top was supported by sheer
ledges which rose above the forest below. There might
be some point in the wall where a man could scale it with
the help of a long ladder, but it was evident that no cow
had ever fed in that stall.
It was past noon now, and the soldiers sat down on a
rock in the mild sunlight which poured over the dividing
ledge, and talked of the strange situation.
274 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
" There have been human beings here," said Bromley ;
" at least two of them : the fellow who lived in that house,
and the robber who looted it. Now I am not much of a
detective, but it is certainly our business to find out how
they got here and how they got away."
"How the robber got away," suggested Coleman; ''for
there is no doubt in my mind that the man who lived here
was his victim."
" Yes," said Philip, " I am certain there was a murder
committed here. Don't you see that if the murderer had
carried off the books they would have been evidence against
him sufficient to have convicted him of the crime ? "
This view of Philip's was so plausible that the others
adopted it. They assumed that the unfortunate victim
had been shot in the open field, and buried where he fell.
If the crime had been committed so long ago that the
grass had found time to take root in the hard paths, it
would have long since overgrown the shallow grave. Then
it occurred to the soldiers, who had helped to bury the dead
on more than one battle-field, that as time passes a shallow
grave has a way of sinking. The murderer would have
been careful not to raise a mound, and the very place of
his crime should by this time be plainly marked by a
long grassy hollow.
They started at once to search for the grave ; but they
were thirsty, not to say hungry, after their exertions of
the morning, and so they went first to a spring which they
had seen near the head of the path where they had climbed
up. It was a large bubbling spring, and flowed under
THE DESERTED HOUSE 275
the rocks so nearly opposite to where the branch appeared
on the other side that they knew it was the source of their
own supply. It was not pleasant to think how easily their
neighbor in his lifetime might have turned it in some other
direction, thus stopping the wheels of their mill, and pos-
sibly leaving them to perish of thirst.
After they had lain down on the ground and drunk
from the spring, they turned in the direction of the lonely
house, flattering themselves that they were, after all, pretty
clever detectives. By putting together the facts which
they had now determined and proved, they had made a
rather shrewd beginning at the discovery of a crime.
They agreed, as they went along, that nothing further
should be disturbed within or without the house until they
should have unraveled the histoiy of the foul murder.
That was, they believed, the method observed by the best
detectives and coroners. They might not establish their
theory to-day or to-morrow, but they could go and come
by the new path they had found, and sooner or later they
would force the secret from the mute objects in the midst
of which the crime had been committed.
As they arrived at this united and enthusiastic decision,
they were approaching the house on the opposite side to
that which they had passed on their first coming. The
turf was so firmly rooted here that it was not easy to
determine whether there had or had not been a garden
on this side. A thick clump of young chestnut-trees
had grown up since cultivation had been suspended, and
as the three soldiers turned around these, they came
276 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
suddenly upon something which exploded their fine-spun
It was nothing less than a grave with an uncommonly
high mound above it, and marked at the head by a broad
slab of oak. Besides the wild-rose bush which grew out
of the matted grass on the mound, there was another ob-
ject which staggered the soldiers more than the grave it-
self. On the upper part of the headboard the following
inscription was deeply cut :
REST THE BONES
APOSTLE OF TEMPERANCE
Here ended the letters, which were cut with a knife, evi-
dently by the said Hezekiah himself, with the expenditure
of much time and patience. Below, the inscription was
continued with black paint, half written and half printed
in one ungrammatical and badly spelled sentence :
Hit was sumwhar betune
April 26 & Juin the 4,
The other object, found lying across the grave, was the
skeleton of the cow, whose crumpled horns were attached
THE DESERTED HOUSE 279
to the bleached skull, and whose white ribs provided a
trellis for the rose-bush. Strangest of all strange things
in this mysterious affair, one horn of the skeleton was
hooked over the top of the slab so as to hold the great
skull reversed close against the headboard on the side
opposite to the inscription. Evidently the faithful crea-
ture had died of starvation during the winter which fol-
lowed the death of her master. By accident or through a
singular exhibition of affection, she had lain down to
die on the hard snow which was banked high above the
grave, and as this melted the head of the cow had lodged
in this remarkable position.
"Well," said Philip, with a sigh for his pet theory,
" whoever he was and however he came here, his name was
Hezekiah WaUstow, and there was no murder after all—
unless a third man came to bury him."
" That 's all settled," said Bromley, resignedly ; " but
how about the cow ? Did she come here in a balloon ? "
'' My dear fellow," said Lieutenant Coleman, " we have
not yet found how the men got here. When we learn that,
it may make all the rest plain."
Without entering the house again, the soldiers made a
second circuit of the field, examining carefully every foot
of the cliffs. They were absolutely certain now that there
was no road or path leading to this smaller plateau except
that by which they themselves had come ; and yet here
were the bones of a full-grown cow and the ruined stall
which had at some time been her winter quarters. They
next examined the heaps of stalks, which were sixteen in
280 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
number, and represented that many harvests; but the
older ones were little more than a thin layer of decayed
litter through which the grass and bushes had grown up.
There might have been many others of an earlier date, all
traces of which had long since disappeared. At first it
seemed strange that a cow should have starved in the
deepest snow in the midst of such surroundings. On a
closer examination, however, it appeared that the tops of
the two larger stacks had been much torn, and the stiff
stalks cropped bare of leaves. It was plain enqugh that
the lean cow had wandered here on the hard crust of the
snow and scattered the stalks as she fed. Even now these
could be seen lying all about in the grass where they had
lodged when the snow melted. Under one of the stacks
another skull was found, the owner of which must have
died before the cow, or have been killed for beef. Instead
of one, two domestic animals, then, had cropped the grass
and switched at the flies on this plateau which was sur-
rounded by inaccessible cliffs. How did they come there ?
By sunset the soldiers were no nearer to a solution of
this difficult problem, and so they filled their two pails
with antislavery books, and returned to ponder and wonder
in the society of the bear and the six sad roosters.
They could sleep but little after such a day of excite-
ment, and they were scarcely refreshed by their night's
rest when they returned on the following day to the de-
serted house. This time they left their overcoats at home,
and took with them a loaf of corn -bread for luncheon, and
the pails, in which they intended to bring back more books.
THE DESERTED HOUSE 281
They halted again before the oak slab bearing the name
of Hezekiah Wallstow, apostle of temperance, etc., and
crowned by the mourning skull of the cow, as if to as-
sure themselves of the reahty of what they had seen, and
then they walked humbly into the house. They could
think of no guiding clue to start them in the solution of
the problem of the cattle, and so they weakly yielded to
their curiosity about the books. Bromley cut away the
thicket of hop-vines which darkened the two windows,
and in the improved light they fell to examining the
coarse woodcuts of runaway slaves with their small belong-
ings tied up in a pocket-handkerchief, which headed certain
advertisements in the periodicals. ''The Adventures of
Captain Canot " was a thick book with numerous illustra-
tions of a distressing character. In one picture a jolly
sailor with a pipe in his mouth was smilingly branding the
back of an African woman, while another sailor stood by
with a lantern in broad daylight. They hoped to find an
account-book or a diary, but there was nothing of the sort
on the shelves beyond one or two entries in pencil on a
fly-leaf of the " Memoir of Rev. Ehjah P. Lovejoy," acknow-
ledging the receipt of a cask of meal or a quarter of lamb.
[ OLLOWING their first visit, the three soldiers
returned dui'ing four successive days to the de-
serted house and the field surrounding it. By
this time they had carried home the last of the
books by pailfuls, making the long journey through the
cave of the bats by torch-light ; but they had arrived no
nearer to the solution of the riddle of the cattle. In fact,
•so long as any part of the library remained where they
had found it, they had come to wander hopelessly in the
early morning along the ledges which upheld the smaller
plateau, and then retire to the cool house to read.
After the books had been removed by the soldiers to
their own side of the dividing cliff, they found it so hard
to leave them that they stopped at home for a whole week,
reading by turns and worrying themselves thin about the
bones of the cattle. They had abundant need at this time
to keep their flesh and spirits, for two more of the nine
sacks of corn had been ground in the mUl, and the pros-
pect for the future was more dismal than ever. The end
of this week of inaction, however, found the three soldiers
in the early morning again standing by the deserted house.
Lieutenant Coleman had a systematic, military mind,
and, now the diverting books were out of their reach, he
stated the problem to his companions in this direct and
concise way :
'' We know that two cattle have lived and died on this
" Undoubtedly," replied Bromley and Philip.
" We have examined three sides of the field, and found
that the cattle could not have come from either of those
dii'ections. Is not that so "? "
" It is absolutely certain," said the others.
"Therefore," continued Lieutenant Coleman, "they
must have come by the fourth side."
This conclusion was admitted to be logical ; but it pro-
voked a storm of argument, in the course of which the
soldiers got wild-eyed and red in the face. In the end,
however, they consented to trim out the bushes which
formed a thicket along the base of the ledge. It seemed
to Lieutenant Coleman that they must find some passage
here, and, sure enough, not far from the middle of this
natural wall they came upon a low-browed opening, which
presently narrowed down to a space not much more than
five feet square. The farther end of this tunnel was closed
by a pile of loose earth, which was spread out at the base,
and had every appearance of having been thrown in from
the other side of the ledge. The rusty shovel was brought
from the fireplace of the house, and after a few minutes of
284 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
vigorous digging, a ray of light broke through the roots
and grass near the roof of the hole. The soldiers gave a
wild cheer, and rushed out into the fresh air to cool off.
" That settles it," said Lieutenant Coleman. " Hezekiah
"Wallstow was the old man of the mountain, and after
Josiah Woodring buried him he filled up this passage.
The treasure he was searching for was the very cask of
gold we dug out of the fake grave— thanks to the sacri-
legious behavior of the bear."
" But how about the cattle ? " said Bromley, still skep-
" Easy enough," said Coleman, triumphantly. " They
brought two young calves up the ladders."
This hitherto unsuspected passage through the ledge
made everything clear. It had evidently been wide open
during all the years the old man had lived on the mountain.
It might have been screened by bushes so that any chance
visitors, like the hunters who came over the bridge, would
be easUy deceived, and not disposed to look farther than
the ruined cabin and the non-committal gravestone.
It was not strange that the three soldiers had never sus-
pected that there was an opening here through the rocks,
for a four-pronged chestnut had taken firm root in the
grassy bank which Josiah had thrown up, and the old man
had been dead six years when they first arrived on the
mountain. How soon after the burial the passageway had
been closed, it was not so easy to determine, but numerous
hollows which were afterward found near certain trees and
rocks on the smaller plateau made it look as if Josiah had
spent a good many moonlight nights in digging for the
treasure before he gave it up altogether. According to
the story of Andy, the guide, Josiah himself must have
died soon after his strange patron, and most likely he
closed the entrance to the passage in despair when he felt
his last illness approaching. There was still much for the
soldiers to learn about the motive of the hermit in bury-
ing his surplus gold. The comforts with which he had
surrounded himself would indicate that he was no miser,
and his devotion to the cause of the slave made it extremely
probable that he had willed his treasure to some emanci-
pation society, which had not succeeded in reclaiming it
before the war, and which, for plenty of reasons, had not
been able to secure it since.
After the soldiers had reopened the passage through the
dividing cliff so that they could pass readily from one
plateau to the other, they suspended further investigation
and yielded to the luxury of reading, which had been de-
nied them so long. The more they read of this peculiar
literature from the library left by Hezekiah Wallstow, the
more interested they became in the cause of the slave who,
they believed, had been made free on paper by the impo-
tent proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, only to have his
fetters more firmly riveted than ever by the success of the
Among the other books there was one entitled '' Two-
fold Slavery of the United States." This book had been
published in London in the year 1854, and contained as a
frontispiece a black-and-white map, which, so far west as
286 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
it extended, was remarkably like the one which hung on
the wall of their house. Philip shed new tears over the
pathetic lives of Uncle Tom and little Eva, and Lieutenant
Coleman and George Bromley grew more and more indig-
nant as they read of the sufferings of the Rev. Elijah P.
Lovejoy, and the self-confessed cruelties of Captain Carnot.
However much the soldiers were wrought up by these
books, it was left to the mass of pamphlets and periodicals
to fill their hearts with an unspeakable bitterness toward
the institution which the united efforts of their comrades
in arms had failed to overthrow.
It was evident that the old man had kept up some sort
of communication by mail with the Boston abolitionists,
and that his agent, Josiah, had yielded his views, if he had
any, to a liberal supply of gold ; for up to the time of his
death he had continued to receive these periodicals. As
long as he received such dangerous publications, he must
have maintained correspondence with their editors ; and
the more the soldiers became imbued by their reading with
the ideas which had made a hermit of Hezekiah Wallstow,
the more certain they became that he had willed his money
to the cause of abolition, or perhaps that he only held it
in trust from the first. Otherwise, why should he have
adopted so crafty a method of hiding it from Josiah?
To speculate on the cunning of these two men became a
favorite occupation of Coleman and Bromley when their
eyes were worn out with reading. They were sure that
every fresh lot of pamphlets had come, through the settle-
ment and up the mountain, at the bottom of a cask of meal.
The old man had no min or other means of grinding his
com, which he must have cultivated for his cattle, relying
upon Josiah for most of his food. Undoubtedly the very
keg which the hunters had seen Josiah carrying up by
moonlight, and which they believed was filled with whisky,
contained seditious literature enough, if they had ever
found it, to have put them to the unpleasant necessity of
hanging the bearer to the nearest limb.
So the soldiers continued to read, to the neglect of every
other duty, through the entire month of August, except
that Lieutenant Coleman made a brief entry in the diary
each morning, and, when they were out of food, Philip
laid by his book long enough to grind another sack of the
corn. The few ears which had shown themselves on the
plantation had been eaten green, and the yeUow and shriv-
eled stalks which had escaped the grub at the root stood
in thin, sickly rows. It was an off year even for the chest-
nuts. When, in addition to this, it was found in Septem-
ber that the potato crop had rotted in the ground, the
reading was brought to a sudden end, and the soldiers
found themselves face to face with a condition which
threatened starvation, and that before the winter began.
They remembered the bee-tree, and took up the line where
Philip had left it, at the edge of the southern wall, only
to find that the bees flew on to some tree in the forest
below and beyond the plateau.
When it was quite settled that they would have no sup-
plies for the winter unless they bought them from the people
in the valley with their gold pieces, as the old man had
288 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
done before them, they settled down to their reading again,
foraging by turns for every edible thing they could find,
and putting off the evil hour when they should be forced
to reveal themselves. The more they read of these fiery
periodicals the more they loathed their neighbors in the
valley and shrank from communicating with them. They
knew that these people in the mountains seldom owned
slaves themselves ; but they felt that they were in f uU sym-
pathy with all the cruelties of which the yellow-and-blue
covered pamphlets treated. If the guineas in the hoard of
Hezekiah Wallstow meant anything, they represented the
proportion of the gold which had been contributed by
antislavery societies in England ; and they began seriously
to consider their moral obligation to return the entire sum
to its rightful owners. In order to accomplish this just
purpose, their lives must be preserved during the approach-
ing winter, and seeds secured for another planting. After
that, they would find means to replace with iron the gold
they had used in the construction of the mill and of
various domestic utensils ; and when the treasure was re-
stored to the cask, they would find some way to open com-
munication with the benevolent antislavery societies.
By the end of October they had eaten the last of their
meal. There were a few clusters of purple grapes on the
vines, and to these they turned for food, still dreading to
make any signs to their enemies, with a dread which was
born of the pamphlets they were reading. For two days
more they stained their hands and faces with the juice of
the grapes, until an exclusive fruit diet, and meditation
day and night on the awful wickedness of men, weakened
their bodies and began to affect their minds.
The dread hour had finally come, and they could no
longer delay making signs of their distress. To this end
they collected a pile of dry wood, and heaped it on the
point of rocks, in full view of the settlement of Cashiers.
It was growing dusk when everything was ready to start
the fire, and Philip had come from the house with a lighted
torch. At the moment he was about to touch it to the dry
wood, Bromley snatched the torch from his hand and ex-
tinguished it in the dirt. Coleman and Philip tried to
prevent this rash act of their comrade, and in their excite-
ment gave free expression to their anger; but Bromley
stamped out the last spark of the fire without paying any
heed to their bad language and frantic gestures.
'' Are you mad ? " he then cried, retreating a little from
what threatened to be an assault. " What do you think
will be our fate at the hands of these people, when we
are found in possession of such books as we have been
reading"? We should be imprisoned like Lovejoy, or
branded like Walker. We might pay with our lives for
your recklessness to-night."
Philip and Coleman were shocked at the danger they
had so narrowly escaped, and thanked Bromley for his
forethought and prompt action.
Of course they must bury the books, but they would
have all of the next day to attend to that ; and with many
expressions of thankfulness they returned to the house and
crept into their bunks. When morning came they were
290 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
weak and hungry, with nothing whatever to eat ; but in
spite of all this they heaped the antislavery books and
pamphlets on the earthen floor, carefully separating them
from the works on temperance. They had come to regard
these books as little less than sacred, and they naturally
shrank from burying them in the ground. Happy thought !
—there was the cave of the bats. So, packing them into
the pails, the soldiers carried the books in two toilsome
journeys by torch-light to the middle of the cavernous pas-
sage, and laid them carefully together on the stone floor.
They were well-nigh exhausted by this exertion ; but after
a rest they found strength to close the entrance with
brush and earth, and to cover their work with pine-needles.
Half famished as Lieutenant Coleman and his comrades
were, they could only drink from the branch and wait pa-
tiently for night. The poor old paralyzed rooster, sitting
in the chips by the door, looked so forlorn and hungry
that Philip set him out among the dry weeds, and lay down
on the ground beside him, so as to be ready to turn him
about and set him along when he had plucked the few
seeds in his front. As for the bear and the five crippled
roosters, they shambled and hobbled about, and shifted
bravely for themselves.
There were still many things to consider as to how they
would be received by these people, and what success they
would have in exchanging United States gold pieces for
food and clothing. Perhaps they would be obliged to buy
Confederate notes at ruinous rates of exchange. Perhaps
their visitors would confiscate their gold pieces at sight.
THE BEACON FIKE.
and take them down the mountain as State prisoners.
They must keep some coins in their pockets for barter,
which was their object in summoning their dubious neigh-
bors ; but it would certainly be prudent to conceal the bulk
of their money. So the last thing the soldiers did on this
November afternoon was to dump the gold that remained
in the cask into a hole in the ground, and cover it up.
As soon as it began to grow dark on the mountain they
set fire to the pile of wood, which was presently a great
tower of flame, lighting up the rocks and trees, and form-
ing a beacon which must be seen from valley and moun-
tain for miles around. At that hour, and in the glare of
their own fire, they could see nothing of its effect in the
settlement ; but they were sure it would be watched by the
families outside every cabin ; and in this belief they moved
about to the right and left of the flames, waving their arms
in token of their distress.
Surely a fire on this mountain-top, where no native had
set foot for seven long years, would excite the wonder of
the people below. It could be kindled only by human
hands, and they would be eager to know to whom the
In the morning the three soldiers crept out to the smol-
dering remains of their fire, which was still sending up a
thin wi'eath of smoke. On the distant road through the
valley they could see groups of tiny people, evidently
watching and wondering. They could come no nearer
than the bridgeless gorge, and so, weak as the soldiers
were, after making every effort to show themselves in the
294 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
smoke, they made theii* way to the head of the ladders and
climbed down to the field below. Philip stopped behind
to run up the old flag on the pole ; for, whatever effect
that emblem might have on theii* neighbors, they were de-
termined to stand by their colors. They found a few
chestnuts and dried berries in the old field, which they
devoured with wolfish hunger as they crept along toward
They hoped to see human faces on the opposite bank
when they arrived ; but there was no one there to meet
them. They were not greatly disappointed, for it was still
early in the day, and the people had a much longer jour-
ney to make from the valley. There was the same old-time
stillness on that part of the mountain : the tinkling brook
in the bottom of the gorge, and the soughing of the wind
in the tops of the tall pines on the other side. There were
still some sticks of the old bridge wedged in the top of
the dead basswood— the bridge which had served the old
abolitionist in his lifetime, and the destruction of which
had served the purpose of the soldiers equally well.
The mild November sunshine lay bright on the faded
landscape, and the soldiers sat down on the diy grass to
await the coming of their deliverers. If one of the tall
pines had been standing on their own side of the gorge
they would have used their last strength to cut it down and
fell it across the chasm. They had put on their old blue
overcoats, to make a decent appearance before the people
when they arrived ; but hour after hour crept slowly by,
and nobody came except Tumbler, the bear, who had backed
down the ladders and shambled across the field to join
them. By the sun it was past noon when he came, and as
he seated himself silently in the gloomy circle, he made
but a sorry addition to the anxious waiters. Why did no
one come to their relief ? They knew that their fire had
been seen where the presence of a human being would be
regarded as little less than a miracle by the dwellers in the
valley. What if they had accepted it as a miracle alto-
gether, and avoided the place accordingly? They were
ignorant people, and therefore superstitious ; or else they
were as cruel and heartless as they were described in the
" Weekly Emancipator."
The rustling wind in the tree-tops, and the occasional
tapping of a woodpecker in the forest beyond, became
hateful sounds to their impatient ears. Bromley, who was
the strongest of the three, and the more indignant that
no one came to their relief, wandered back upon the old
field, where he found a few more chestnuts, which he di-
vided equally with his half-famished comrades. Every
mouthful of food helped to keep up their strength and
courage, and now the slanting rays of the afternoon sun re-
minded them that they must repeat their signal, and that
no time was to be lost in gathering wood for another fire.
There was still hope that relief woidd come before dark,
and Philip was left to watch with the bear, while Coleman
and Bromley returned to the plateau.
The postmaster in the Cove might be less superstitious,
they thought, or less hard-hearted than the people in the
valley. If their strength held out they would have two
296 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
fires that night. No chance should be neglected. As Cole-
man and Bromley dragged together a few dead limbs upon
the edge of the great boulder, they hoped that the post-
master had found the remains of the telescope, as they
knew he had found the army blanket which fell from the
balloon, so that when he saw their fire he would connect
it, in his mind, with the other objects which had come
down from the mountain.
It was after sunset when Philip and Tumbler appeared
on the plateau. No one had come even so far as the gorge ;
and Philip helped to carry the last of their wood to the
rocky point where the blackened embers of the first fire
lay in the thin ashes. Coleman and Philip remained to
kindle this beacon, while Bromley went to the Cove side
with a lighted torch and a bundle of fat pine-knots. When
Bromley saw the first smoke of the other fire across the
ridge, no light had yet appeared in the windows of the
small post-ofiice. Moreover, with his strong eyes he was
sure he saw some object moving along the road in the di-
rection of the office. He waited a little, waving his torch,
and then he appKed it to the dry leaves and sticks at the
base of the pile, which flashed quickly into a blaze. Brom-
ley was not content to move about in the light replenish-
ing his fire, but, as often as a fat pine-knot had become
enveloped in flame, he separated it from the pile and poked
it over the edge of the great smooth rock, to flare against
the black storm-stains as it fell, and perhaps to start a new
fire in the Cove bottom. A brisk east wind was blowing
across the mountain, which carried the smoke and sparks
over the long roof of the post-of&ce. Bromley remained
late at his work ; but at last his strength and his wUl-power
yielded to the weakness that comes with hunger. An
overpowering drowsiness compelled him to leave the fire
and go stumbling over the hill to the house, where he found
Coleman and Philip already asleep.
■HEN the three soldiers awoke on the morning
which followed the kindling of the two fires,
Philip was too ill to leave his bunk, and Lieu-
tenant Coleman and Bromley were too weak to
drag themselves as far as the rocks where the embers were
still smoking. The sun was shining on their United States
window, and when they looked out at the door, the old flag
of thirty-five stars was floating bravely on the fresh wind.
" Three cheers for the stars and stripes, and for Sher-
man Territory ! " cried Bromley, and the weak cheers so
exhausted the two men that they sat down on the wooden
bench in a state of collapse. Faint as they were from
hunger, they were still fainter from thirst, and after a mo-
ment's rest they staggered over to the branch and drank
their fill of the cool water, and laved their feverish faces
in the stream. They brought a cup of the water to Philip,
who lay quietly in his bunk, and was altogether so weak
that they were obliged to hold him up while he drank.
" There, there," said Coleman, as they eased him back
THE EESCUE 299
on his pillow. "You must keep a good heart, for some
one will surely come to us to-day."
Philip looked brighter for the draft of water, but he
only smiled in reply. The sun was warm outside, but the
act of drinking, while it had greatly revived and encour-
aged Coleman and Bromley, had so chilled their starved
bodies that they put on their overcoats and buttoned them
up to the throat. They could do no more in the way of
calling for help than they had already done. Men had died
of starvation before, and it might be their fate to perish
of hunger, but they had a strong faith that the fires they
had built for two nights on this uninhabited mountain
would bring some one to their relief. They regretted now
that the reading of the abolition books had influenced them
to delay so long their appeal for help. To reach them
their rescuers must fell one or more of the taU pines across
the bridgeless gorge, but they were too weak to go down
the ladders, and what wind there was blew across the
mountain in the direction of the gorge, so that they would
not be able to hear the sound of an ax a mile away. Time
had never dragged so slowly before. The sun lay in at the
open door, and by the marks they had made on the floor, as
well as by the shadows cast by the trees outside, they could
judge closely of the hour. They could hardly believe that
it was only ten o'clock in the morning, when it seemed as if
they had already passed a whole day in vain hope of relief.
It was such a terrible thing to await starvation in the
oppressive stillness of the mountain, that Bromley, almost
desperate with listening, went to the branch and hung the
300 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES
bucket on the arm of the old Slow-John, which presently
began to pound and splash in its measured way. Dismal
as the sound was, it gave them something to count, and
relieved their tired ears of the monotonous flapping of the
flag and of the rustling of the barren corn-stalks.
They talked of the old man who had died alone on the
other plateau. He, too, might have died of starvation.
There were no signs of food in the deserted house when
they had discovered it. They had never thought of it be-
fore, but his cunning agent might have been a villain after
aU, He might have grown weary at last of lugging casks
up the mountain by moonhght, and getting the old man's
gold by slow doles. He must have had some knowledge
of the treasure for which he dug so persistently afterward,
and in his greed to possess it he might have deliberately
starved the old abolitionist. They thought of Hezekiah
WaUstow burning beacon-fires in his extremity, when
there was a good bridge to connect the mountain-top with
the valley, and yet he was left to die alone. The thought
was not encouraging to Coleman and Bromley in their
weakened, nervous condition, and tended to make them
more than ever distrustful of the natives to whom they
They withheld these disturbing suspicions from Philip,
but the more they pondered on the subject the more they
were convinced of the barbarity of the Confederates, and
of their determination to leave them to their fate.
Lieutenant Coleman wi-ote what he believed to be the
last entry in the diary. It was November 7, 1871 ; and
THE RESCUE 301
on the prepared paper of the book which treated of deep-
sea fishing, he stated briefly their starving condition and
their fruitless efforts to summon relief. They still had the
tin box in which the adamantine candles had been stored,
and into this Bromley helped to pack the leaves of the
diary, already neatly tied in separate packages, and labeled
for each year. If he had had a little more strength he
would have carried it to the forge, and sealed the cover of
the box which contained the record of their lives. As it
was, they set it on the mantelpiece under the trophy formed
of the station flags and the swords and carbines, and laid
a weight on the lid.
After this was accomplished. Lieutenant Coleman lay
down and turned his face to the wall, and Bromley seated
himself on the bench outside the door, too stubborn to give
up all hope of relief. The warm sun lighted the chip dirt
at his feet, and seemed to glorify the bright colors of the
old flag as it floated from the staff. He forgot his desper-
ate situation for a moment, as his mind turned back to the
battle-days when he had seen it waving in the sulphurous
smoke. It gave him no comfort, however, to think of his
old comrades and the dead generals and the cause that was
lost ; and when his eyes fell on the ground at his feet, he
tried to keep them fixed on a tiny ant which came out of
a crumbling log. The small thing was so full of life, dart-
ing and halting and turning this way and that ! Now it
disappeared under the log, and then it came out again,
roUing a kernel of corn by climbing up on one side of the
grain, to fall ignominiously down on the other. Bromley
302 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
was just about to pounce on the grain of corn and crush
it between his teeth when he heard a sound on the hUl,
and, raising his eyes, he saw two men coming on toward
the house. They carried long bird-rifles on their shoulders,
and to his starved vision they looked to be of gigantic size
against the sky.
He could only cry out, " Fred ! Fred ! Here they come ! "
These electric words brought Coleman's haggard face to
the door, and even Philip turned in his blankets.
The strange dress and wild appearance of the two sol-
diers clinging to the door of the house, and the fantastic
effect of the afternoon sun on the stained-glass window,
as if the interior were on fire, so startled the strangers
that they lowered their rifles to a position for defense, and
turned from the direct approach, until they had gained a
position among the rustling corn-stalks in front of the
door. The various buildings and the evidence of cultiva-
tion on the mountain-top staggered the visitors, and the
haggard faces of Coleman and Bromley led them to believe
that they had come upon a camp of the fabled wild men
of the woods. They had never seen a stained-glass window
before, and to their minds it suggested some infernal
magic, so the two valley-men stood elbow to elbow in an
attitude for defense, and waited for the others to speak.
" Come on, neighbors," said Bromley, holding out his
empty hands. " We are only three starving men."
One of the valley-men was tall and lank, and the other
was sturdily built ; and at these pacific words of Bromley
they advanced, still keeping close together.
•HE COULD ONLY CBY OUT, 'FiJEDl FB£D! HEBE THEY COlIEl'
THE RESCUE 305
" We don't see but two/' said the stout man, coming to
a halt again. "■ Where 's the other one at ? "
"He 's too weak to get out of his bunk," said Lieuten-
ant Coleman. "For God's sake, have you brought us
" That 's just what we have," said the rosy-faced stout
man, who came on without any further hesitation. "We 've
brought ye a corn-pone. We 'lowed there might be some
human critters starvin' up here." With that he whisked
about the thin man, and snatched a corn-loaf from the
haversack on his back.
" How did you-all ever git here ? " said the thin man.
" Hit 's seven year since the old bridge tumbled into the
There was no reply to this question, for Bromley was
devouring his bread like a starved wolf, while Coleman
had turned away to share his piece with Philip.
The eagerness with which they ate seemed to please the
two valley-men, who were willing enough to wait a reason-
able time for the information they sought. It was a fine
opportunity to give some account of themselves, and the
rosy-faced man made good use of it.
" We 're plumb friendly," he said, " and mighty glad we
brought along the bread, ain't we, Tom ? Might n't 'a'
done hit if hit had n't 'a' been for my old woman insistin'.
She 'lowed some hunter fellers had got up here and could n't
git down ag'in, and she hild fast to that idea while she
was a-bakin' last night, time your fire was a-burnin'. Hit
certainly takes women folks to git the rights o' things,
306 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
don't hit, Tom 1 My name is Riley Hooper, and this yer
friend o' mine is Tom Zachary, and we 're nothin' if we
Poor Philip was unable to swallow the dry bread, and
Coleman came to the door with the golden cup in his hand,
and begged one of the men to bring a cup of water from
the branch. Tom Zachary hurried off on this mission of
" Hit 's a wonder," he exclaimed, when he came back
with the dripping cup, " that you-all ain't been pizoned
afore this, drinkin' out o' brass gourds. That 's what ailed
Colum. Long time he had the greensickness. But his
woman was cookin' into a brass kittle, and that might 'a'
made some difference."
The two men now pressed into the house to see Philip,
and Bromley, whose hands were at last empty, and whose
strength was fast returning, came after them.
'' I 'm jist nacherly put out," said Hooper, when he saw
the condition of Philip, '^ that I did n't bring along some-
thin' to warm up a cold stomic. Poor feller ! Say, where 's
your f ryin'-pan at ? I 'U fix a dose for him. Here, Tom,
wake up. Fill this skillet with water out o' the branch,
'thout no flavor o' brass into hit"; and as he spoke he
whisked Tom around again, and took the haversack from
his shoulders. "No, ye don't," said he to Bromley, who
came forward for more bread. " No, ye don't, my boy.
I 've viewed starvin' humans afore. What you want to do
is to go slow. A dose o' gruel is jest the ticket for this
yer whole outfit."
THE EESCUE 307
The rosy-faced man was too busy witli the fire and the
gruel, and too eager to improve the condition of the men
he had rescued, to ask any disturbing questions ; and Tom
Zachary was so considerate, in the presence of actual star-
vation, that he seated himself on a three-legged stool, and
stared at the stained-glass windows and the flags and the
curious map on the wall. It was just as weU that Bromley
had removed the golden casters, years before, from the
legs of the stools, when they were found to make ruts and
furrows in the earthen floor. Tom Zachary would have
been more astonished than ever if he had found himself
rolling about on double-eagles.
When the hot gruel had been served, Philip was so much
revived as to be able to sit up on the edge of his bunk.
If it was delicacy that stni prevented the visitors from ask-
ing questions, it was a dread of overwhelming bad news
that sealed the soldiers' lips. They had become so settled
in their convictions, and so confii-med in their strange
blindness, that they shrank from hearing the mortifying
particulars. So the five men sat staring at one another,
each party waiting for the other to begin.
" Sojer coats," said the lean man, nudging his companion.
" And cavalry guns and swords," said the rosy-faced one,
casting his eyes on the trophy.
"And my affydavid," said the taU one, "if them ain't
the reg'lar old signal-flags— one, two, one."
Lieutenant Coleman was thankful that his visitors had
said nothing disagreeable thus far, but he feared every
moment that they would make some insulting remark
308 THE LAST THREE SOLDIEES
about the old flag, which they could see through the door-
Bromley restrained himself as long as he could, and
then, in reply to the three mild observations, in which he
thought he detected a shade of sarcasm, he exclaimed :
" Well, what of it ? We are not ashamed of our uniform
or of our arms."
" There ain't no reason why ye should be, my buck,"
said the rosy-faced man. " Soldierin' is as good a trade
as any other,"
'' Hit 's better 'n some," said the tall one.
" Gentlemen," said Lieutenant Coleman, who began to
fear more personal remarks, ''you have saved our lives
to-day. We shall never forget your kindness, or cease to
feel ourselves youi* debtors. You see our destitute condi-
tion. We need food for the coming winter, and seed for
another year, for which we are able to pay ; and if you
know who owns this mountain-top, we shall be glad to
arrange, through you, to buy it."
'' Well, now, I '11 be gormed," said the rosy-faced man,
" if he ain't a thoroughbred as soon 's he gits fed up a
little. Wants to buy these yer rocks, does he ? Tom, who
do you reckon owns this mounting ? "
" Dunno," said Tom, with a gi'in, " if you don't."
"Well, I do," said Hooper, expanding himself with an
air of proprietorship, " and there hain't nobody never dis-
puted my title to this upper kentry."
" Are you willing to sell it ? " said Lieutenant Coleman.
THE RESCUE 309
" I '11 sell anything I 've got," said Hooper, looking more
rosy and smiling than ever, " so I git my figger."
" Very well," said Coleman. " If we take the mountain-
top from the deep gorge up, at what price would you value
" Well, now," said Hooper, '^ if you really mean business,
this yer track ain't worth a fortun'. Timber-land in these
parts brings a dollar an acre when hit brings anything.
Rock-land like this, without no timber onto hit, is worth
fifty cents; but, considerin' the improvements and the
buildin's," he continued, " I reckon seventy-five would be
dirt-cheap. Hit ain't ever been surveyed, but I 'low there 's
two hundred acres above the gorge."
Lieutenant Coleman already had his hand in the pocket
of his canvas trousers, and, bringing out two double-eagles,
he handed them to the rosy-faced proprietor as a first pay-
ment. Hooper jumped up from his seat and took the two
yellow coins in his hands, and chinked them together, and
tossed them about as if he feared they might burn his
"Durned if hit ain't United States gold money, Tom,"
he exclaimed, passing one of the coins to Zachary, who
was equally excited. "We hain't viewed that kind o'
money for seven years in these parts, have we, Tom ? "
Tom indorsed his companion's statement in pretty
strong language, and Lieutenant Coleman hastened to say
that if the money was not satisfactory, they could probably
agree upon some rate of exchange. At this point of the
310 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
conversation, the two mountaineers exchanged some words
in a whisper, and the soldiers believed they were agreeing
upon the discount between United States and Confederate
money. To fill up this awkward break in the conversa-
tion, Lieutenant Coleman began again to express his
gratitude to his rescuers.
"Now, hold on, captain," exclaimed Hooper, facing
about. "Whatsoever me and Tom has done, we have
done willin', and nobody willin'er, and we 're goin' to
stand by ye to the end ; but we ain't goin' no further in
this business till you tell us how ye got here. The way we
study hit out, you ain't treatin' me and Tom fair."
" Pardon me, my good friends," said Lieutenant Cole-
man. " I had no intention of being rude. We came here
in the summer of 1864, in the line of our duty as Union
soldiers, and w^en the war ended with the success of the
" What ! " cried the two men together, gasping in amaze-
ment at what they heard. " And the Union was destroyed,"
continued Lieutenant Coleman. " And the Capitol feU into
the hands of the Confederates." "And slavery was re-
stored," exclaimed Bromley. "And the flag was disgraced
and robbed of its stars," put in PhiKp, with such voice
as he could command.
The two mountaineers stood open-mouthed for a
moment, and then they burst into peals of laughter.
"Whoop!" cried the rosy-faced man, slapping his leg
and throwing his wool hat on the floor as if it had been a
brickbat. " If that ain't the jolliest thing I ever heard,
THE RESCUE 311
and hit 's kind o' serious-like, too ! Why, men, there
ain't no Confederacy. Hit 's the old United States, from
Canada to the GuK of Mexico, and from the Atlantic
Ocean clear across to the Pacific."
" And General Sherman—" gasped Philip.
" He 's gineral of the army up in Washington right now,
and Gineral Grant is President," cried the rosy-faced man.
Somehow the interior of the house grew vague and
misty, as if a sea-fog had swept in through the windows.
Everything and everybody danced and reeled about, until
the soldiers fell away from the embrace of their deliverers,
quite exhausted by the excitement and the news they had
While all this was going on, Philip lay back on his
blanket and shed tears of joy over the wonderful news.
In fact, there was n't a dry eye in the room. Even the
eyes of the men from Cashiers glistened with moisture, as
they vied with each other in discharging facts, like can-
non-balls, into the ears of the astonished soldiers. They
gave them a rough history of the end of the great war, of
the tragic death of Lincoln, and of some of the events
which had since taken place in the United States.
" There were thirty-five stars on the old flag when we
came here," cried Lieutenant Coleman.
" And there 's thirty-seven now," said Hooper.
" Thirty-seven ! " repeated the soldiers, looking at one
another through their tears. " Thirty-seven ! "
The soldiers ate some more of the bread from the
haversack, and with renewed strength went out into the
312 THE LAST THKEE SOLDIERS
afternoon sunlight, Coleman and Bromley supporting
Philip, and all five sat down under the old flag. And
as they sat there together like brothers, the soldiers
told the others why they had fii'st come to the mountain,
and the bad news they had got by flag, and the resolution
they had made, and aU that had come of it. And when
they had done speaking, Tom Zachary, whose face had
grown longer and sadder as he listened to their story, said
he had something to tell them for which he hoped they
would forgive him.
" I was only a boy in the war-time," said Tom, " and I
lived with my kin-folks in a settlement at the foot of the
tenth mountain. Gineral Thomas commanded the Home
Guard brigade, with headquarters at Quallatown, in the
Cherokee kentry, and he had signal-flag men like you-all,
and 'mongst the rest there was one named Bud Bryson.
Now Bud was mighty peart, and he boasted as how he
could study out any cipher that ever was made, if only he
had time enough. So when the gineral heard that there
was a Yankee station on that mountain, he sent Bud with
a spy-glass, to make out the cipher and read the telegrafts
for him. Many 's the day I stayed out on the South Ridge
with Bud, and wrote down the letters as he read 'em off,
and, turn 'em which way we would, we could never make
head or tail of 'em. It was a-z-q-j-g and such fool let-
ters, and after two weeks' hard work Bud Bryson was no
nearer to makin' sense of the letters than when he begun,
though he did always say that if they had only give him
time he would 'a' studied out the trick.
THE RESCUE 313
" But the gineral got tired o' waitin' on Bud, and one
day he sent a squad of fifteen cavalry soldiers to capture
the stations. The soldiers started up the mountain in the
early mornin', with Bud to guide 'em and give 'em points.
I went up with the rest, just to see the fun, and when we
got to the top, the soldiers rushed in on two sets o' men,
sawin' the air with their flags and sendin' messages both
ways. Lieutenant Swann was the officer's name, a big
red man, and mighty mad he was when the soldiers took
him. They searched him from head to foot, and 'mongst
the papers on him they found the secret cipher Bud had
been workin' for.
" What with guardin' the prisoners and the prospect of
capturin' more, fifteen troopers was too scant a crowd to
divide into two squads, and so the captain ordered Bud to
stay on the mountain and give the stations ahead enough
news to keep 'em quiet until he come back.
" That game suited Bud mighty weU, and havin' nobody
to help him, he made me stay with him to take down the
letters. We had the camp just as they left it, with plenty
o' rations and coffee to drink such as we had n't tasted for
years, and every time Bud looked at the flags he burst out
laughin'. Hit was somewhere near the end of July when
we took the mountain, and that same afternoon Bud begun
to figger the letters of his first message crooked accordin'
to the cipher, and git hit ready to send on. ' Tom,' he says
to me with a grin, *I reckon we better kiU off Gineral
Sherman first,' and then he laughed and rolled over on the
314 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
"Next mornin' he sent the message, and when the tele-
graft come back to know if the news was true, he sent
word hit was, ' honor bright,' and signed the lieutenant's
name, 'James Swann.' Hit was three weeks before the
squad got back from Chattanooga way, and all the time
Bud kept sendin' lies about great Confederate victories.
He was keerful what he sent, too, and figgered on the
dates, and kept aU the messages he had sent before wrote
down in order, so he would n't get mixed. When we got
all ready to leave Bear Clift, which was the tenth station,
Bud flagged an order to hold on— that relief was comin'.
"Now, after we started east, we picked up a station
every mornin' ; and as soon as Bud got his hands on the
flags, he begun to lie more than ever, closin' up the war
with a dash. We had over fifty prisoners when we took
the three men off from Upper Bald, and there havin' been
six on every other station, we nat'rally thought we had
found the last; and the cavalry went away with their
prisoners to Quallatown."
''TER the straightforward story of Tom Zach-
ary, which explained the cunning method by
which Lieutenant Coleman and his comrades
had been deceived by the flag-messages, the
soldiers could feel no resentment toward Tom. They
were so happy in the possession of all the good news
they had heard that they would have shaken hands with
Bud Bryson himself, if he had been one of their rescuers.
''Now I reckon," said the rosy-faced man, as he got on
his feet to go down the mountain, " considerin' the way
things has turned out, you-all won't keer about investin'
in property in this upper kentry, and I '11 give ye back
your money," he continued, looking fondly at the two
Coleman and Bromley, however, insisted that a bargain
was a bargain, and that they wanted the land more than
ever. They should go away, they said, the next day if
Philip was able to make the journey; and Lieutenant
Coleman pressed another coin upon Hooper, for which he
316 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
was to bring them a supply of clothing which they could
wear as far as Asheville.
It all seemed like a dream to the three belated soldiers
when their visitors had gone ; but Bromley, who was the
more practical, reminded his comrades that the antislavery
societies must have been long since disbanded, and that
the gold was theirs by the right of discovery. So, after
making a supper of the corn-bread from the haversack,
Coleman and Bromley fell to work with a will, stripping
the mill of its golden bands and hinges and hasps ; and
late into the night the windows of the forge glowed and
beamed, and the ruddy firelight streamed out through
the cracks in the logs, where Bromley, the goldsmith, was
smelting and hammering the precious metal into bars, and
beating into each, while it was soft, the impress of a
When all the gold was packed in the very cask in which
they had found it, and so wedged and padded with leaves
of the temperance books that it no longer chinked when
it was moved, a book-cover was nailed on the head, and
the package was addressed to " Lieutenant Frederick
Henry Coleman, U. S. A., Washington, D. C."
The tin box containing the diary, and the flags and
swords and such books as they wished to keep, were
gathered together and packed for transportation.
By noon of the following day the two mountaineers
appeared again, looking like old-clothes men as they came
over the hiU.
When the three soldiers got out of their tattered cloth-
'•THEY LOOKED HAKDLY LESS COMICAL THAN BEFORE.'
ing, and into the butternut-and-gray suits which had been
borrowed for them from the neighbor folk in the settle-
ment, the misfits were such that they looked hardly less
comical than before. Philip was the first to appear from
the house ready for the descent. His hat was a bell-
crowned beaver, his trousers were turned up half-way
to his knees, and he carried in his hand the alligator-
skin bag which had belonged to the beautiful lady of the
After they got down the ladders, Coleman carried the
cask as far as the gorge, resting at intervals, but never
permitting the two mountaineers to test its weight or even
suspect its contents. Philip and Bromley divided between
them the flags and sabers, the remaining carbine, the map,
and the tin box containing the diary. Hooper and Zachary
were occupied with the six sad roosters, and Tumbler, the
bear, ambled along behind the men as they picked their
way down the mountain. It was really a perilous journey
along the rough trunk of the great pine which lay across
the dark chasm, but Bromley shouldered the cask, and
walked over as steadily as old Tumbler himself, and, ar-
rived on the opposite side, he set it on end in the tail of
the steer-cart, which was hitched to a sapling alongside
the very rock on which Andy, the guide, had been
seated when he told the story of the old man of the
The tall pines were whispering together in the soft wind
as unconcernedly as if it had been seven days instead of
seven years since the soldiers had stood on that spot be-
320 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
fore, and the tinkling stream below was still chinking on
its way like silver coins in a vault.
At first Philip mounted the seat beside Tom Zachary,
and took charge of the fowls jolting in a yellow, croaking
mass between his feet, except the old paralyzed rooster,
which he carried tenderly in his lap. He was too excited
to ride, however, and presently he got down and walked
with the others. At every stage of the descent the soldiers
were learning new facts about the war, which made their
return to the United States a triumphal and delirious
progress. By the time they reached the hill-pastures,
where they were greeted by some of the very same copper
bells that had startled the cavalcade going up, they began
to be joined by the people who had heard of their dis-
covery. They came in twos, and threes, and whole fami-
lies, to swell their train, so that when they turned into
the sandy road through the valley they were attended by
a joyous procession of curious followers, which steadily in-
creased until the cart, with the bear shambling alongside,
came to a stand by the woodpile of Elder Long, misnamed
Shifless. Philip took off his bell-crowned hat right and
left to the women ; and Lieutenant Coleman greeted Aunt
Lucy, who leaned on her crutches at the gate among the
pui'ple cabbage-heads, with the stately courtesy he had
learned at West Point.
Riley Hooper mounted the woodpile, and announced,
with a merry twinkle in his eye, that he and Tom had
captured the "harnts" that had been "doin'" the ghost
business so long on old Whiteside ; at which Aunt Lucy
glared through her spectacles as if the remark were a
personal affront to her, and the elder exclaimed fervently,
" May the Lord's will be done ! "
When presently the mail-carrier came along in his one-
horse gig, Lieutenant Coleman wrote a hurried despatch
to the adjutant-general of the army, announcing the relief
of his station, and the cask containing the treasure was
committed to the carrier's charge, to be sent on by express,
as if it were only the commonest piece of luggage.
When the sun disappeared behind the mountain, usher-
ing in the long twilight in the valley, the crowd was still
increasing, and one of the last to arrive was the old post-
master from the Cove. When he came the soldiers and
their deliverers were seated with the elder's family about
the supper-table in the kitchen, where the neighbors lined
the walls and filled the doors and windows, eager to hear
more of the life on the mountain.
The great round table itself excited the soldiers', sur-
prise ; for, besides being covered with a gaudy patchwork
of oilcloth, it was encircled at a lower level with a narrow
ledge which held the plates and cups and knives and forks,
while the great center was loaded with smoking loaves of
corn-bread, platters of fried chicken, bowls of potatoes,
jugs of milk, and pots of fragrant tea.
Room was made for the postmaster at the hospitable
board, and after the elder had said grace standing, he
invited everybody to help himself, at the same time giving
the table a twirl which sent the smoking dishes and the
flaring tallow dips circling around on an inner clockwork
322 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
of creaMng wooden wheels. It was altogether such a
bewildering and unexpected movement that Philip nearly
fell out of his chair, and even Bromley, who had just laid
a piece of corn-bread on the edge of the oilcloth, dropped
his knife as he saw the bread sail around until it rested in
front of the postmaster, very much as the blanket had
fluttered down from the balloon.
After the supper was over, and aU the neighbor folks
had been satisfied, eating and drinking where they stood,
Lieutenant Coleman, speaking for his companions, related
such incidents in connection with their life on the moun-
tain as he chose to disclose. He ended his long story by
presenting the bear to Riley Hooper, and the six sad
roosters to Tom Zachary, with a sum of money to pay for
their keeping. The library of abolition books he presented
to Elder Long, telling him where he would find it in the
"Hit 's plumb quare," said the postmaster, after Lieu-
tenant Coleman sat down. " Did you 'ns ever drop sech
a thing as a spy-glass ? "
''We did indeed," said all three of the soldiers to-
" An' mighty well battered an' twisted hit was," said the
postmaster. *' I found hit 'mongst the rocks a spell after
the blanket landed front o' my door, an' I always 'lowed
hit fell out o' the balloon."
The soldiers laughed.
"I come drefful nigh comin' up thar in '69," said the
postmaster. "Say, strangers," he continued, dropping
his voice, "tell me true; did you 'ns ever view the harnt
up yonder ? "
" We never had the pleasure," said Lieutenant Coleman.
" That 's quare, too," said the postmaster, " an' you livin'
thar seven year; fur I viewed hit, an' no mistake, that
winter afore I 'lowed to come up, a-gyratin' an' cavortin'
on the avalanche in the moonlight, the same bein' the
night afore hit fell."
Bromley sat back in his chair, and laughed aloud.
''Here 's the 'harnt' you saw," he exclaimed, slapping
Philip on the shoulders.
" No, no ! " cried the postmaster, getting onto his feet
with a scared look in his face. "Yer funnin' with me,
stranger, fur no human could 'a' got thar whar I viewed
"But he did," said Bromley; and then he described
how Philip fell, and how he got up again. " By the way,"
continued Bromley, looking around, " is the young woman
present who used to live alone in the house under Sheep
At this question some of the neighbor women pushed
forward a tall, stoop-shouldered girl with a sallow face,
who struggled to avoid the gaze of the soldiers.
" What fur ye want 'o know ? " she said in a sullen voice,
still pushing to get back to her place against the wall.
" Oh, nothing," said Philip ; " only we used to see you
through the telescope."
The soldiers and the family sat for a time in silence
after the most of the neighbors had gone.
324 THE LAST THREE SOLDIERS
" Well, I declare/' said the postmaster, giving a twirl to
the creaking table which caused the last guttering candle
to approach him in a smoky circle, " how things do come
round ! "
The light reddened the postmaster's face for an instant,
and gleamed on his glasses, as he blew out the candle and
pinched the wick.
And so ends the history of the three soldiers who re-
mained in voluntary exile for seven years, and were hap-
pily rescued at last.
THE LIBRARY OF THE